OH set to expand rural broadband

Ohio Senate Bill 8 would bring fast internet to underserved rural communities

by hunter ellis, managing multimedia editor
Photo courtesy of wikimedia.commons.org
SGA Vice President Marina Salazar called satellite internet connections “ridiculously slow,” praising the introduction. The proposed broadband expansion bill would provide at least $50 million in grants to internet

The Ohio Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), which would create the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program, beginning a new chapter of expansion of high-speed internet across the entire state.

According to the Ohio Senate’s website, nearly one million Ohioans lack access to high speed internet. 

Proposing a solution to the issue, Rep. Rob McColley (R-District 1) introduced S.B. 8 to the Senate chamber on Jan. 21. After being referred to the Energy and Public Utilities Committee and quickly passing two weeks later, the bill was sent to the State House on Feb. 16.

A similar bill, House Bill 2, was introduced in the house and was co-sponsored by a bipartisan slate which included Cincinnati’s own Rep. Catherine D. Ingram (D-District 32) and House Majority leader Rep. Bill Seitz (R-District 30), who is also from Hamilton County.

While the Broadband Expansion Bill has momentum after passing in the senate, a similar bill was introduced  in 2018 by former Rep. Jack Cera (D-District 96) and former Rep. Ryan Smith (R-District 93) and subsequently failed to pass.

Junior computer science major and SGA Vice President Marina Salazar explained the different types of broadband internet connections. 

“Broadband internet is high speed internet, which can be seen in several ways. The first way is (using) digital subscriber lines which use old or unused phone lines. The second is cable which a lot of people are familiar with. Next is satellite (which) is ridiculously slow and outdated. Finally, we have fiber optic — the way of the future. Fiber optic is super fast, super reliable and has limited lag time. It is used by installing fiber optic cables,” Salazar said.

According to Salazar, broadband internet can be expensive, and those who want to install fiber optic internet connections could face long waitlists due to high demand.

The Broadband Expansion Bill would allot at least $50 million in grants in order to expand broadband connections to those who do not have access. Funds will mostly be distributed directly to broadband internet providers.

Oftentimes, members of rural communities in the state deal with lack of access to high-speed internet connections more frequently. According to the bill, in the Appalachian portion of Ohio, one in four households only have access to either dial-up or satellite connections.

“I think it is great that Ohio passed the resolution. Access to the internet should be a human right. As we have seen during this pandemic, our world functions because of technology. Our classes are online, we shop online, we even order food online. Access to the internet is not cheap, and without access to the internet, we are hurting the communities that need it most,” Salazar added

After the committee hearings conclude on S.B. 8, if the bill passes in the Ohio House with a simple majority, it could be signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.