(The Center Square) – More than 40,000 Ohioans are expected to be affected by more than $232 million in grants the state recently issued to expand broadband access to underserved areas in the state.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced this week 11 internet services providers will share the money that will be used for 33 broadband expansion projects in 31 different counties.
“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury – it’s a critical necessity for everything from school to work to healthcare,” DeWine said. “We must end the digital divide in our state, and by giving our rural and unserved areas access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet, we will enhance economic growth in these communities and bring about new opportunities for residents.”
The Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program became part of the state’s budget in July after DeWine’s budget proposal to lawmakers only included $20 million for the project. The first budget passed by the Ohio Senate included no money for broadband expansion, but $250 million was added during House and Senate negotiations.
The program is part of a statewide plan that aims to bring high-speed internet throughout the state. According to a news release from DeWine, 300,000 households in the state, representing about 1 million Ohioans, lack broadband internet.
“These partnerships will greatly expand internet access across the state and enhance the lives of tens of thousands of Ohioans,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development. “These awards highlight our commitment to ensuring all Ohioans are able to participate in the 21st-century economy.”
The average construction time for new broadband projects is expected to be two years, but some could receive improved internet access in a year, DeWine said.
As part of the grant process, several providers also committed to independently fund 71 other broadband expansion projects serving about 52,000 households and impacting 31 additional counties, according to the news release.
“These awards will help our local private- and public-sector partners expand high-speed, affordable internet in areas of Ohio that are currently unserved or underserved,” Husted said. “You can’t be part of the modern economy, education system and health care system without access to broadband – it is a necessity. This effort will help connect hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who have been left behind until now.”