State Senators Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, tried to kill $90 million for rural broadband expansion, yet the Ohio legislature’s House – Senate conference committee on the the next two-year state budget restored not only that, but the original $250 million for rural broadband proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Huffman and Dolan said that they were concerned there were no plans existing in the state government to direct rural broadband funding. From the Taft and Strickland administrations through the DeWine administration, there have been many rural broadband expansion maps developed and planning done among private sector and public sector organizatons with the goal of pushing broadband internet access into rural areas of Ohio.
Huffman and Dolan said when the Senate version of Ohio’s biennial budget passed through the upper chamber, that there were no current plans for expanding broadband internet access in rural Ohio.
This was not correct.
In the fall of 2019, the DeWine administration updated the state’s rural broadband plan – aligning it with USDA guidelines – in order to make Ohio eligible for federal funding to add to any state funding.
Ohio Farmers Union asked House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima and Huffman to restore the House version of broadband funding – totaling $90 million over the next two years.
OFU President Joe Logan wrote to Cupp and Huffman saying in part:
Broadband, we believe, should be treated as rural electrification was in the past. Internet connectivity – at decent bandwidth – is an economic necessity for farmers and their families. COVID-19 laid bare the disparity between rural Ohioans and our suburban and urban neighbors when our kids and grandkids were expected to learn online for many months. Furthermore, internet connectivity opens up opportunities for learning and eventual business development. Rural Ohio should not be left out of this trend.
OFU appreciates the restoration of the funding for rural broadband and will be watching over the next two years to see how that money is spent.