One of the greatest challenges facing the Buckeye State is ensuring that broadband internet service is both accessible and affordable, regardless of where you live. This issue was brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Ohioans found themselves learning and working from their homes.
In the past year, I heard from numerous employees, schools and parents struggling to work from home and educate children with little or no internet service. I know that some families have had to find unique ways to adapt, such as utilizing hotspots from parking lots. Far too many families in remote, rural areas sadly cannot access any internet at all.
It has been suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a digital transformation that would have taken several years to occur in a matter of months, but lack of internet access is perhaps the greatest barrier to competing in the 21st century economy. Technology and the way we interact with others is rapidly changing, and we need the infrastructure in Ohio to stay on pace. This is why I am strongly supportive of several state initiatives, as well as legislative measures currently under consideration, which would help expand broadband services to traditionally underserved areas in our state.
Ohio Lt. Governor John Husted is the founder and Director of a state program called InnovateOhio. According to InnovateOhio, more than 300,000 households, or 1 million Ohioans, lack access to high-speed internet. One of the priorities of InnovateOhio is the Ohio Broadband Strategy, which is focusing on improving internet access to both unserved and underserved areas.
In addition to efforts by the current Administration, the Ohio General Assembly is working on Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 2, legislation that would expand broadband services in Ohio. This legislation would create the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program to help fill the gap in service and provide all Ohioans with the opportunity to gain internet access and connectivity. These bills would invest money to help broadband providers complete residential broadband projects in underserved communities across the state.
This past year has been especially difficult for everyone pivoting to more online ways of life. I commend all the parents, school personnel, businesses and employees in Ohio for navigating these unique times. I also want to thank our local libraries for providing free Wi-Fi and internet hot spots so that area residents could access much-needed online materials for learning and working.
I am optimistic that in the near future Ohioans will not have to worry about whether they have internet service that is so desperately needed in today’s world. Between the broadband grant program bills working their way through the legislature, and the efforts of the Administration, Ohio is working diligently to fill voids and help all our citizens gain broadband access.
For more information about InnovateOhio and the Ohio Broadband Strategy, please visit https://innovateohio.gov/
. For further information or to track the progress of Senate Bill 8 or House Bill 2, please visit https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/