Online learning, Zoom meetings, and telehealth amid the coronavirus have made the digital divide starker, putting legislation to bridge the gap on the fast track at the Ohio Statehouse after many false starts.
(TNS) — Online learning, Zoom meetings, telehealth appointments, and even online funerals during this age of coronavirus have made the digital divide wider than ever, putting legislation to bridge the gap on the fast track at the Ohio Statehouse after several false starts.
"Internet is not a luxury in 2021," said state Rep.
Coronavirus simply exacerbated these problems as schools and many businesses were closed, most Ohioans were told to stay home, and employees had to work from home.
The bill would provide grants to telecommunications providers to complete the "last mile" deployment of broadband to residences — mostly in rural
The grants, to be disbursed through a panel under the
"Through the application process they have to be able to show that they would not be able to make that investment on their own, that there is a cost gap in place that simply cannot be met under normal business practices," said state Sen.
Companies that already plan to deploy broadband in an area could challenge the issuance of grants to competitors who might use government money to undercut them.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Reps. Stewart and
The bills are top priorities this session after the effort ran out of time in December's lame-duck session. The chambers will now have to decide which version reaches the desk of Gov.
Some supporters, however, noted these bills do nothing to address the affordability question. Many Ohioans can't afford high-speed internet service even though broadband cables may run past their homes.
"The city of
The bills faced no opposing testimony in hearings and received a broad swath of support from the
"This bill correctly remains tech-neutral because in places like northwest
"As the state looks forward, an all-of-the-above strategy must be employed, combining a strong backbone of fiber optic lines to towers that broadcast high-speed broadband into farmhouses and along fields all over the rural
(c)2021 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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