Senators Schiavoni And Hite Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Give More Ohioans Access To Broadband Internet
Grant program will build infrastructure and expand economic opportunities
Posted September 06, 2017 by Minority Caucus

Columbus—Today, State Senators Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) announced bipartisan legislation to enable more Ohioans in rural areas to gain access to broadband internet service.  The bill would create a $50 million per year grant program using existing funding from Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue. Ohio Third Frontier is an economic development initiative administered by the state.

“This legislation is incredibly important to Ohio’s future,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Without access to broadband internet service, businesses can’t reach their customers, students can’t do their homework and workers have difficulty searching for jobs.”

It is estimated that the grant program would expand broadband coverage to approximately 14,000 Ohio households per year without raising taxes or using money from the state’s General Revenue Fund.  Currently, 300,000 rural households and 88,500 Ohio businesses do not have broadband access. This hinders economic development and limits employment opportunities. 

“We are woefully behind in expanding broadband access in the State of Ohio, including my district,” said Senator Hite. “This legislation is crucial for improving a situation that will continue to be a problem for many of my constituents if something is not done.”

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.  The grants could not cover more than half of a project’s cost.

The legislation calls for the Director of DSA to award grants based on applicants that best address community needs.  Those needs include providing technical support and digital literacy training, with a special emphasis on unserved, vital community institutions like schools, hospitals and police and fire departments.

The grant program is modeled after a highly successful broadband infrastructure funding program in Minnesota.  Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) will introduce companion legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives.

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