Ohio Legislature Considers Expansion of Broadband Service for Underserved Areas
By Devin D. Parram.
Associate, Bricker & Eckler LLP.
Internet access has become a vital part of our everyday way of life. The ability to access the internet is critical for job searching, conducting government business, shopping, accessing important medical and financial information, and all levels of education. However, as a report by Connect Ohio indicates, there are approximately 2.5 million Ohioans who lack access to reliable broadband service. In addition, nearly 90,000 businesses in Ohio do not have access to broadband internet. A recent Ohio State University study indicates that these underserved populations largely live in less populated rural regions where it is cost prohibitive for internet service providers to extend service.
Bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives to address this issue by substantially expanding broadband access to underserved areas of the state. Senate Bill 225 (Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Schiavoni (D-Boardman)) and companion House Bill 378 (Smith (R-Bidwell) and Cera (D-Bellaire)) seek to create a Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which would provide $50 million per year in grant funding for a period of two years. The program would use existing funding from Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue.
If the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program is passed, the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) would award grants of up to $5 million to businesses, nonprofits, co-ops and/or political subdivisions to build broadband infrastructure in underserved areas of the state. Grants would be awarded based on applications that best address community needs, including technical support and digital literacy training, with an emphasis on vital community anchor institutions. In addition, $1 million would be available to support broadband data collection, mapping and local broadband planning efforts to target infrastructure investments.
The broadband expansion legislation may be successful considering its bi-partisan support. Further, the legislation is modeled after Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program, which has been viewed as a success in expanding internet access to rural populations. As such, local officials, residents and businesses that are located in Ohio’s underserved communities should monitor Ohio’s legislative efforts to expand broadband service and stay informed regarding the potential grant funding opportunities in the future.
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Lt. Governor Jon Husted, in his capacity as Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, today announced the launch of the Industry Sector Partnership grant program, which was funded through the state operating budget.read more
This two-day course is designed to provide the Ohio economic development professional with the critical steps of real estate development and a comprehensive understanding of how a deal progresses through to completion. Attendees will analyze the anatomy of a real estate deal and learn how each component stage impacts the next, and how real estate development is practiced in Ohio. This understanding will help the ED professional recognize the challenges (and often barriers) to advancing a new development in their community and to more thoughtfully understand approaches in helping close the deal.read more
The Ohio Basic Economic Development Course is an intensive training experience for economic development practitioners, community leaders, local government officials and others committed to building healthy economies for their communities. The course is appropriate both for people who are new to the economic development profession as well as those more experienced who are seeking a refresher on basic practices and principles.read more