On Tuesday, the Ohio Chamber delivered proponent testimony on Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) in front of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee. As the bill is currently written, private companies can submit proposals to the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) to address the broadband needs of a specific location. The applications will then be reviewed by a dedicated Broadband Expansion Program Authority inside DSA.
Passage of SB 8 will allow the state of Ohio to begin the first phase of providing access to high-speed internet for some of the 300,000 Ohio households that currently lack access to high-speed internet. For Ohio to continue to compete, innovate and meet the technological opportunities of the 21st century it needs to find ways to deploy broadband services to all areas of the state.
In the last General Assembly, a similar bill (HB 13) was passed out of the House but died in a Senate committee. In this General Assembly, the Senate has acted first and the introduced version is similar to the last version of HB 13 pending in the Senate when the 133rd General Assembly ended in 2020. The Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee may report the bill out of committee as early as next week. This urgency to address the broadband access gap in Ohio is welcomed news. Additionally, the Governor announced his budget for the next two fiscal years, and it contains $250 million for broadband expansion. It is not yet clear how much of that money would be placed into the process contemplated in this bill, but hopefully, the Broadband Expansion Program Authority is the vehicle used for the additional dollars.