Will Ohio Put Enough Money Toward the Broadband Problem?

(TNS) – Since Governor Mike DeWine announced his proposed two-year budget in February, Scioto district officials have been asked several times for their opinion on what the legislation could mean for the district.

Among the items included in the budget, the Board has expressed support for child services, needy defense and broadband. However, a vote by the Ohio Senate last week could cut the $ 250 million originally allocated for broadband entirely.

That decision could prove to be a huge success for rural counties like Scioto, the board said during its meeting on Thursday.

“We need full funding,” said Commissioner Bryan Davis when the Ohio House of Representatives previously voted to allocate $ 190 million for its 110 version of the House Bill.

The trial is one Davis saw before saying where initial promises of expanded funding were made but not kept. However, the effects of COVID-19 made the need for broadband all the more urgent.

Commissioner Scottie Powell said the need is known at the state level and visitors from Columbus frequently mention broadband. He, too, would rather act than discuss on this front.

“It would be a great disservice to the community if we saw cuts in this item,” he said. The approved budget still needs the approval of the governor. “At this point, the internet is as important as water in thinking about business and the opportunity to start a business or even work from home.”

At a time when many students and parents were working outside of the classroom or office, internet access at home was a service that many in Scioto had and did not have. To get their job done, many had to go to parking lots and connect to WiFi.

“When they try to figure out how to put the whole pie together, broadband is always cut at some point,” said Davis, describing the budgeting process. “I applaud your efforts and we appreciate every little bit you do, but we need all hands on deck to move this forward.”

Efforts that year included House Bill 2, which launched the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program for $ 20 million. Bill sponsor Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township, called broadband the “great social balance of our time” after the law was passed last month.

This earlier vote was almost unanimous. Only four votes – all Republicans – out of 95 in the Ohio House were against. As Lt. Gov. Jon Husted previously told the Portsmouth Daily Times this is a unifying issue.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have voters who are left behind,” Husted said in an article from the Times 2021 Progress. “This is the bridge that brings them together, whether you’re in a poor urban area or Live in a very rural area and your constituents don’t have or can’t afford the internet, you are a common problem. “

Of the estimated million Ohio residents without internet, more than 16,500, or 22% of Scioto County’s residents, do not have access, according to the Ohio Lt. Gov.’s Office. In neighboring Pike and Adams counties, 39% and 57%, respectively, have no internet in their homes.

Davis said the push for expanded broadband access will be continued by the board and lobbying of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, which has identified it as a top policy priority this year.

According to the Greater Ohio Policy Center, $ 5.68 billion is flowing into the state through the American rescue plan. Davis wants some of this funding to go to infrastructure projects like broadband.

“With the money the state got through the US bailout, I believe the money is there,” he said, adding later, “The rural communities, the rural counties, need this more than, say, them three C’s [Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati], T [Toledo], and D [Dayton]. “

“We need that and we will keep fighting.”

© 2021 The Portsmouth Daily Times, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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