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Politics

Ohio Senate Eliminates Funding For Broadband Internet Expansion

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There are $1.3 billion in tax cuts in the Senate version of the budget, which Republican Senate leaders say are paid for with spending cuts. Among them is the elimination of $190 million for grants for broadband expansion that’s in the House’s budget.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said it’s not that he’s opposed to expanding broadband. It’s that he’s unclear on what the money would do.

“I think people are anxious to spend money on something that everybody thinks is a good idea. I think it’s a bad idea to just start spending without a plan," Huffman said.

The Ohio House’s $190 million was a drop from Gov. Mike DeWine’s initial request of $250 million.

Nearly 1 million Ohio households lack reliable broadband, and 300,000 have no service at all.

A new law creates a residential broadband expansion grant program with $20 million for construction grants. Last month when DeWine signed the law at a middle school in Middletown in southwest Ohio, he urged lawmakers to include the $190 million in the House budget.

Reps. Rick Carfaga (R-Genoa Township) and Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) sponsored that bill, which was House Bill 2. They said in a statement that reads in part:

“Lack of broadband access presently denies employment, education, healthcare and commerce opportunities to at least one million Ohioans, and the broadband expansion grants proposed by the House and Governor’s Office are designed to free up hundreds of millions in private investment to aggressively combat these disparities.  Based on the numerous public and private statements of our colleagues in the Senate, I know that there is a strong desire on their end to bring this life-changing infrastructure to those currently deprived.  Given today’s Senate announcement to remove these funds in totality, I look forward to hearing how they intend to accomplish House Bill 2’s vision of facilitating the expansion of high-speed internet to unserved households across Ohio.”

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.