Ohio State Senators Joe Schiavoni and Cliff Hite have introduced legislation in their state 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 and would use existing funding from the Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue. Ohio Third Frontier is an economic development initiative administered by the state.
It is estimated that the grant program would expand broadband coverage to about 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 which hinders economic development.
The Development Services Agency (DSA) https://development.ohio.gov would award grants for up to $5 million to businesses, nonprofits, and co-ops to build broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.
The legislation calls for the Director of DSA to award grants based on applicants that best address community needs. These needs include providing technical support and digital literacy training with special emphasis on unserved, vital community institutions like schools, hospitals, plus police and fire departments.
This grant program is modeled after a highly successful broadband infrastructure funding program in Minnesota. The legislature in Minnesota included $20 million in funds for the program called the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program.
The Border-to-Border Broadband grant program hopes to provide all Minnesota businesses and homes access to high speed broadband. The goal is to provide minimum download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of at least three megabits per second which is hoped to be achieved by 2022.
In addition, the Minnesota Broadband grant program seeks to have all state businesses and homes no later than the year 2026 have access to at least one provider of broadband with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 20 megabits per second.
Go to https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program for information on the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant program.