Ohio and Senators are rushing this week to the finish line of the state’s roughly $ 74 billion spending plan for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
Fiscal year 2021 is scheduled for midnight on Wednesday, so if the legislature is not on time to complete and approve the half-yearly budget, it must act quickly and responsibly.
From our perspective, we must prioritize swift and responsible action that is urgently needed to move the state forward. This is a clawback of approximately $ 250 million in funding to expand and improve Internet access to Ohio as a whole and to the Mahoning Valley and other areas. Especially the Appalachians.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a strong proponent of broadband expansion, wisely recommended placing grants in new budgets to help bridge the state’s digital divide. However, the State Capitol reduced its proposed spending to $ 190 million. The Senate then torpedoed the initiative by completely wiping out the money.
The actions of the House of Representatives were misguided and the actions of the Senate were not defended.
DeWine and the Lieutenant Governor. Join Jon Husted and insist on restoring the original 2.5 billion allocation.
As Hasted bitterly put it during his visit to Youngstown last week, âA lot of people cannot participate in normal modern life without Internet access and high-speed Internet. Hundreds of thousands of people across the community. I see people left behind. Modern economy. “
As reported earlier this year in this area during the successful discussion of passing a $ 20 million broadband expansion bill sponsored by D-Warren Congressman Mike O ‘ Brien, young people are doing business without high-speed Internet access. It is practically impossible to educate. And the Wi-Fi service. Its important role in helping many people survive the relatively intact COVID-19 pandemic further underscores its importance.
This is why the destruction of Dewin’s initiative by the state legislature remains so puzzling. Some may have seen the $ 20 million grant program pass in May, sufficient for foreseeable future needs of the state.
Frankly, it is almost not enough.
According to a study by Ohio broadband consultant Tom Reed, it will eventually cost $ 2.3 billion and 45,000 miles to replace aging copper wire and install reliable broadband access in the Appalachian Mountains. ‘Ohio. You will need a fiber optic cable.
Funding for the broadband initiative may also be touched near you. Residents of the Mahoning Valley may forget that they are part of the Appalachian region served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. In fact, Mahoning, Trumbull, and Ashtabula counties form the northern end of the ARC in 13 states and 420 counties.
A loss of $ 250 million in state funding, specifically for the Appalachia project, indicates that it will install a high-speed fiber-optic line along nearly 100 miles of State Route 11 across the counties from Tumble, Mahoning, Ashtabula and Colombia. This could ruin the plans of the Eastgate Regional Government Council. .. The project will serve 620,000 people along the way and, more importantly, will finally provide reliable service to many people who are totally lacking it.
After all, according to ERCOG executive director Jim Kinick, a significant portion of the four counties has no broadband coverage.
And it’s not just rural areas that are in desperate need of internet coordination. Many urban areas are also underserved. Kinick realizes that Youngstown is ranked second in broadband accessibility among more than 5,000 communities in the state, and Warren is ranked fifth in Ohio, which is almost as embarrassing. Highlighting a feasibility study.
Furthermore, ignoring the need to improve broadband accessibility also ignores the growing power of the Internet as an economic engine of the state. Online conferencing capabilities like Zoom not only help businesses save money, but also dramatically improve the purchasing power of web consumers. Earlier this year, Ohio State University’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Development Economics found that over a million Ohio residents still lack sufficient internet access, and if so, Ohio has an additional $ 2 billion in economy. We conclude that this will have an impact. ..
Clearly, the state can no longer ignore the basic need and competitiveness of being able to provide robust and reliable Internet services. In Hustead’s words, if you don’t act, Ohio will be in a “backward state.”
Nobody wants it. State lawmakers recognize that if they take serious action to bolster Ohio’s image and its economy, they may not be able to recoup all of the funding for broadband expansion with a new budget of two years is not an option. Duty.