Lt. Gov. Husted calls for broadband internet funding to be restored
Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted and Governor Mike DeWine were asking state lawmakers for $250 million to make what they claim would be a significant impact on providing broadband internet access to under served portions of the state.
Now the state's top leaders are facing the prospect of no funding at all and limits on who could provide broadband services in municipalities.
"I don't know of a single person who's against the expansion of high-speed internet," Husted said.
Husted says he's disappointed in GOP senators who supported the move away from funding.
State Republicans also added an amendment that would prevent public agencies from expanding broadband programs.
"Even in the Senate bill, you couldn't get a senator to really come forward to defend the amendment that they put in there, and the company that was behind this doesn't seem to want to own it," Husted said.
The limit has lawmakers crying foul.
Summit County's Executive tells the Akron Beacon Journal that would create a monopoly for private providers.
Valley lawmaker Rep. Mike O'Brien supported House Bill 2, which provided grants and $20 million in funding for expanding broadband high speed internet.
O'Brien agrees that the new amendment could create problems for Ohioans who need affordable internet access.
"I agree with the Summit County executive, because this would be favoring local companies to charge more for the rates for all Ohioans," O'Brien said.
The state reports close to one million Ohioans do not have access to high-speed internet.
A state map shows gaps in coverage, especially in northern Trumbull County.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance ranked Youngstown 43rd out of more than 600 communities for worst broadband coverage in the country.
The FCC is sending federal dollars to counties to fund broadband programs, including more than $1.9 million to Trumbull County and $1.2 million to Mahoning County.
According to the U.S. Treasury's guidance, Husted says covid relief dollars can not be used to help pay for updates to broadband internet in the form that the state would like to approach it in residential areas.
Husted says Ohio can't afford to wait in providing access to regions that are still left out.
"Kids can't do their homework, mom and dad can't do remote work, senior citizens don't have access to their doctors through telehealth, we've got to get this going," he said.