COLUMBUS—State Representative Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) today announced that the Ohio House has passed legislation that would help fund projects that provide broadband to underserved regions of the state.
House Bill 281, a Buckeye Pathway bill, would establish the Residential Broadband Expansion (RBE) Program within the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA), through which grants would be provided to local governments that sponsor initiatives to provide broadband to residential areas within their boundaries.
The legislation targets the problem of “last-mile” connectivity to residences where it remains too expensive for private broadband providers to extend their services, filling a funding gap for coverage. This would impact both large areas unserved by broadband service, as well as smaller clusters of households within communities that are already served.
“In 2018, broadband internet is a vital tool, but unfortunately, too many people who live in rural Ohio do not have access,” Gavarone said. “I am happy to cosponsor this legislation to help our local governments bridge the current service and funding gaps so that more people can realize the benefits this resource provides.”
To fund the RBE Program, the bill creates the Ohio Broadband Development Grant Fund and makes an appropriation of $2 million in Fiscal Year 2019. The RBE grant share for projects would be a third of the total cost, with the remaining funds coming from a variety of sources, representing a partnership between public and private entities to improve internet connectivity statewide.
House Bill 281, sponsored by Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township), now awaits further consideration by the Ohio Senate.