Policy Matters calls on state lawmakers to expand broadband infrastructure
Posted June 05, 2018 in Press Releases
Nearly 900,000 Ohioans still don’t have access to broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. A new bill moving through the Ohio Senate attempts to remove some of the barriers to high-speed internet access by appropriating $50 million a year to build out the state’s broadband infrastructure. Policy Matters Ohio testified in support of the legislation before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee today.
Using money from the state’s Third Frontier Program, Senate Bill 225 would allocate $1 million to research, testing, analysis, as well as community engagement and planning. The remaining $49 million would fund direct grants to cities, counties, and firms for broadband infrastructure construction. A lack of access to broadband is especially acute in the state’s poor and rural areas, where low population density, difficult terrain and a lack of community wealth make these communities less attractive to private investors. Targeted grants like the ones proposed in SB 225 can help make broadband projects economically feasible in places where they currently aren’t, said Policy Matters Researcher Rob Moore.
“Grants can also grow regional economies,” Moore said in his testimony. “Broadband connectivity is also valuable for rural consumers and firms. By helping consumers research products and prices and allowing firms to understand and reach markets, broadband infrastructure can be a valuable tool for stimulating rural regional economies.”
Moore said Ohio lawmakers should also consider easing the way for more broadband construction with policies that require better communication between providers and the Ohio Department of Transportation. The state could also expand broadband infrastructure by regulating it as a public utility, Moore said.