Columbus—Today, State Senators Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and John Eklund (R-Munson Township) announced that they reintroduced a bipartisan bill to expand broadband internet access to more homes and businesses in Ohio. The bill, SB 225, would not raise taxes.

“I’m proud to be working with Democrats and Republicans to address a problem that impacts people all over Ohio,” said Senator Schiavoni. “This bill would help make Ohio competitive in a changing economy. By expanding internet access, we can create opportunities for everyone, no matter where in the state they live.”

Right now, 300,000 rural households and 88,500 businesses in Ohio do not have access to broadband internet. This hinders economic development and limits employment opportunities.

SB 225 would create a $50 million annual grant program using existing funds from Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue. It would expand broadband coverage to about 14,000 Ohio households each year without raising taxes or using money from the state’s General Revenue Fund.

“The world is moving at breakneck speed, and all Ohioans who want to keep up should have access to broadband,” said Senator Eklund. “Yet, today some Ohioans live in what may as well be an information desert. This bill gives them hope that they can fully embrace the modern age.”

The proposed grant program is modeled after a highly successful broadband infrastructure funding program in Minnesota. Under the bill, the Development Services Agency (DSA) would award grants of up to $5 million to businesses, non-profits, co-ops or political subdivisions to build broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. 

Preference would be given to applicants who:

- Offer creative ways to stretch dollars and help as many people as possible;

- Expand broadband to vital services such as schools, hospitals, and police and fire departments.

SB 225 has eight Democratic and two Republican co-sponsors. Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) have introduced bipartisan companion legislation (HB 378) in the Ohio House of Representatives.

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