By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net
There’s been a major milestone reached in Ohio’s crusade to expand rural broadband access. Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 2 in May that provides $20 million this fiscal year to expand access and created the Ohio Broadband Expansion Program.
“Internet service providers can start connecting households that weren’t economically viable to connect previously,” said Jenna Reese, director of state policy with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
The bill was passed with an emergency clause that allows for immediate implementation as opposed to the normal 90-day implementation period.
“This will allow the Development Services Agency to start working on rules to administer this program,” Reese said. “Allowing the program to get off the ground will help us have a robust program that we can continue funding later.”
That funding will come at a sum of $200 million — including some federal funds — in the state budget to expand the program. That number could change as the state’s budget is expected to be finalized later in June.
While HB 2 is much-needed for rural Ohio, the expansion process isn’t going to be a quick one.
“This is going to take a really long time to get the program set up and get the internet service providers lined up,” Reese said. “This is going to take some time, and we’ll be working on this for the next few years.”