In the modern age of technology, our day-to-day lives depend on the accessibility and reliability of internet service. Mobile-broadband subscriptions have grown more than 20% each year for the last five years[1], indicating that the demand for internet services is continually on the rise. Filling out job applications, paying bills and helping even our youngest kids with homework, the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Unfortunately, many parts of the state still lack internet access, and it can be cost-prohibitive for service providers to build the infrastructure needed to expand high-speed capabilities.

That’s why the Ohio House has taken multiple steps toward addressing this shortcoming. By incentivizing private companies and local governments to invest in the infrastructure Ohio needs, we can strengthen Ohio’s broadband network and increase access for many of our citizens who do not already have internet capabilities. This expansion is not only crucial for families, but small businesses and emergency services in underserved areas of the state, who are also dependent on up-to-date technology.

Earlier this year, the House passed House Bill 281, which would establish the Residential Broadband Expansion (RBE) Program. Through this program, grants would be provided to local governments that sponsor initiatives to provide broadband to residential areas within their boundaries. The bill targets the issue of “last-mile” connectivity, where it is too expensive for private broadband companies to extend their services. The sponsor of this legislation, Representative Rick Carfagna, a former township trustee, saw the benefits local governments and the people of Ohio stood to gain from implementation of such legislation. I am looking forward to the Senate’s favorable consideration of this proposal and hope to see it become law.

Additionally, the House continues to work on similar legislation that strives to address the same problem, through House Bill 378. This bill would create the Ohio Broadband Development Grant Program, through which private business, local governments, nonprofit telecommunication organizations, and co-ops could apply for a grant in order to upgrade internet services. Representatives Ryan Smith and Jack Cera, who sponsored this legislation together, understand the struggles that individuals in rural areas have when trying to obtain access to the internet. I’m confident that their diligent work will continue on this bill.

The goal of both pieces of legislation is to bridge the gap between private service providers and local government. So much of the expansion of broadband services is reliant on advanced infrastructure, which is where the cooperation of our government entities and private companies culminates. These grant programs would incentivize them to continuing working together and utilize state funds to make needed updates to Ohio’s broadband network.

[1] International Telecommunication Union 2017 Facts and Figures Report

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