Earlier today, the Ohio House passed House Bill 2. HB 2 creates a residential broadband program within the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA). The new Broadband Expansion Program Authority (BEPA) in DSA will review applications from potential suppliers of broadband services to unserved areas in the state of Ohio. HB 2 originally sought $20 million of funding for this current fiscal year. The bill was amended in committee to add $20 million of funding for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The amendment also added one-time money in the sum of $150 million. This is most of the $250 million of one-time money for the expansion of broadband services announced by the governor when he unveiled his budget proposal earlier this month. The remaining $100 million will now be added to the operating budget, and the final shape of the programs using the money will be decided during budget deliberations this spring.
HB 2 is a companion to SB 8, which was passed earlier this month by the Senate. Based upon the amendments to HB 2, it is likely to be the bill to move forward in the process. An emergency clause added to HB 2 will allow the bill to become effective immediately after the governor signs the bill. This will allow DSA to quickly develop rules and give the new BEPA time to start an application period before the fiscal year closes on June 30, 2021.
As we stated in our testimony last week, whether for education, business, healthcare or shopping for goods and services, our need for reliable high-speed internet access is very important in our daily life. With increases in access to high-speed internet connectivity, Ohioans will enjoy new economic and educational opportunities. This in turn will foster the development of a workforce ready to meet the economic challenges of the 21st century and keep Ohio a great place to work and raise a family.