Earlier today, the Ohio Senate 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 House added $20 million of funding for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 and added one-time money in the sum of $150 million.
The Senate removed funding beyond fiscal year 2021. The $20 million for fiscal year 2021 will come from a transfer of funding from a different program fund and not the general revenue fund. HB 2 also creates a dedicated program fund for future funding. That future funding is now contained in the operating budget (HB 110) that recently passed the House and is under deliberation by the Ohio Senate. HB 110 contains the $20 million of annual funding for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 and the one-time monies that may change in scope as more details are learned about federal funding contained in the American Rescue Plan Act. The House will need to concur in the changes at an upcoming session to move HB 2 to the governor for signature.
As we stated in our testimony in both the House and Senate, 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.