COLUMBUS- Additional relief could be coming to southern Ohio families in the form of broadband expansion through a bill in the Ohio Legislature.
Passing the House in June, House Bill 13 would create the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program and the Broadband Expansion Program Authority. Sponsored by Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Twp.) and Michael O’Brien (D-Warren), the bill would provide a stronger internet connection to homes throughout the state.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how critically important it is for Ohioans to have access to reliable high-speed internet,” said Carfagna in a press release. “As so many of our economic, educational, and social activities have shifted to virtual platforms, the divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not has been exacerbated. We believe that the enhancements made to House Bill 13 represent a meaningful step toward closing that gap.”
Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester, was among the 82 votes in favor of the bill, which he describes as “huge” for District 90 that now waits in the Ohio Senate. Sen. Terry Johnson would represent the county on the matter.
The Portsmouth Daily Times reached out to Johnson whether he supports it, but he did not return our messages.
Internet access in Scioto County is among the worst of Ohio counties. According to US census estimates from 2014 to 2018, the county had the 11th-lowest percentage of households with a broadband internet subscription. 70.5% had a subscription, compared to the state average of 79.7%.
The picture is bleaker in Portsmouth, where only 68.7% had the subscription, meaning approximately 2,700 households did not have fast-speed internet available in their own homes.
The latest bill is a continuation of the calls for better broadband due to students attending school virtually and working from home. Americans have been pushed by the coronavirus to stay home if possible, making fast-speed internet essential for those studying and working from home.
Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced Aug. 10 that a $50 million grant would be available to public schools through the BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant. Originally requiring a match from school districts, the grant would provide hotspots and internet-enabled devices to students.
The Portsmouth Public Library announced earlier this week that they be among 14 recipients of funding from the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the AEP Ohio Foundation. The $40,000 would install Wi-Fi access points across southern Ohio, the library using it for two additional locations.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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