SB 8 was re-introduced from the last session of the Ohio General Assembly when our members’ views were shared in the form of proponent testimony on June 2, 2020. Broadband access and affordability have always been priority issues in the GCP Public Policy Agenda, but the GCP advocacy team continues to reinforce our members views in regular talks with key government policymakers, particularly since the GCP Board of Directors elevated its importance with a formal resolution.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis has further exposed the digital divide throughout Ohio—and Cleveland is no exception. Unfortunately, Cleveland remains the most disconnected large city in the nation. According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, almost a third of Cleveland households have no internet connectivity and nearly half of the city households have no wired connection. For Cleveland, the digital divide goes beyond a lack of infrastructure. Our city’s unaffordable and often unreliable internet service options prevent progress and economic recovery – most notably limiting efforts around education, telehealth, and small business growth.
GCP calls for immediate investments that support digital inclusion and technology-based economic development, including broadband. SB 8 – which allows broadband providers to apply for state grants for service provided to unserved and distressed areas – is a good starting point to achieve this goal. GCP believes more must be done in the effort to advance digital inclusion and we will continue to urge a targeted approach in Cleveland.
The business community is encouraged, however, at the Governor’s recommendation to spend $290 million for broadband expansion — what would be the largest state investment in internet infrastructure — in the next two-year state budget. The investment would establish a one-time $250 million initiative, the Ohio Residential Broadband Grant Program, to expand access across the state in 2022 and 2023.
GCP is grateful for the strong focus on a broadband expansion strategy. These opportunities are crucial, must be realized, and the GCP advocacy team and our members will continue to help lead conversations that create concrete solutions.