Columbus, OH — As more than 1 million Ohioans live without internet access in the year 2021, Ohio Senate Republicans last week cut all funding for broadband internet in their version of the state budget that passed strictly along party lines. As the last year has shown us, broadband internet access is one of the most important tools for Ohioans and Ohio businesses to stay connected. But Ohio Senate Republicans prioritized funding for a major tax break that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Ohioans instead of funding to help get more Ohioans connected to reliable internet service.
And not only did the GOP cut all $250 million for broadband funding in the original state budget proposal, they went even further by passing an amendment that would bar public agencies from expanding broadband internet in their local communities in favor of private companies who want to charge Ohioans more for access to the internet.
“Oh, it’s maddening,” William Murdock, Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission said to the Columbus Dispatch about the proposal. “Looking forward, thinking our state would constrain the ability for our public, private and philanthropic partnerships, it’s maddening,” he continued.
“The past year has underscored how critical internet access is to our ability to live, work and connect with one another. While millions of Ohioans still don’t have access to the internet, Senate Republicans are leaving these Ohioans out to dry to help their corporate donors and to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected,” said Matt Keyes, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party.
Read more about the major GOP cuts to broadband HERE and below:
The future of Ohio’s broadband expansion could be on the chopping block.
The state Senate approved its version of Gov. Mike DeWine’s two-year state budget on Wednesday and killed all broadband-related funding (the House version of the budget included $190 million — a $60 million cut from DeWine’s proposed $250 million investment).
The bill would effectively restrict public agencies’ ability to expand internet access outside of a municipality’s boundaries, advocates in rural and central Ohio said.
Misty Crosby, director of the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, a southeast Ohio coalition of local governments that serves eight Appalachian counties, said the amendment will also limit the ability of organizations like hers to use federal funding, (including dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act) while paving the way for private internet carriers to be the sole provider in a given area.
Murdock, the executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, an agency of local governments that serves central Ohio, said 80,000 of the rural and urban constituents his organization serves lack access, and another 84,000 only have the internet on their phones, a deficit only exacerbated further by the pandemic.
Advocates suspect lobbyists for Charter Communications, better known as Spectrum, are behind the telecommunications-friendly amendment.