Ohio RFI Leverages Assets to Achieve Broadband Access Goals

The request for information is an early element of InnovateOhio strategy, currently under development. The initiative is being led by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted with the goal of providing Internet access to underserved Ohioans.

by Patrick Groves / June 20, 2019

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s office announced an RFI today to explore the options for increasing broadband access for residents.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and InnovateOhio, headed by Husted, will consider opening fiber-optic and telecommunications rights-of-way controlled by the state to broadband providers in exchange for investment in improving access to underserved Ohioans.

The state plans to leverage seven assets to achieve wired or wireless access for all residents, according to the RFI. These include the ODOT Intelligent Transportation System, the U.S. 33 Smart Corridor and ODOT right of way, among others. 

Husted said in a prepared statement that service providers are not proactively expanding coverage in the state and a new tactic is to entice them.

“You can’t be a part of the modern economy and education system without access to high-speed Internet,” he said. “… so we are pushing it into action and asking the private sector to work with us to help the people in these areas. By leveraging public assets, we can get people access to the technology infrastructure they need to succeed.”

In a press release, Gov. Mike DeWine said his administration is serious in its endeavor to widen broadband access to every corner of his state. He said poor connectivity can have a detrimental effect on business, education and emergency services.

“We want ideas from businesses, both large and small, community leaders, and anyone with an idea for how we can start making real progress on this issue,” DeWine said.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks joined the chorus of determination surrounding the RFI in the press release. Marchbanks said the rights-of-way are important elements ensuring the safe, efficient transit of people and goods throughout the state.

“We strongly support Governor DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Husted’s goals to leverage this valuable real estate for the benefit of all Ohioans by identifying how we can use them to increase broadband access in the state,” he said.

The solicitation will be open for 21 days and is an early step in an InnovateOhio-led expansion strategy under development.

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