Broadband Access Ohio launches as a resource for internet expansion programs

Crain’s Cleveland -February 18, 2022

Several municipalities and policy experts are teaming up to provide advocacy and support for programs designed to increase broadband connectivity for communities, school networks, nonprofits and other entities across Ohio.

Broadband Access Ohio officially launched this week with a mission to promote the role communities can play in bringing high-quality internet to underserved areas as more funding from federal and state sources becomes available.

The organization has more than 20 inaugural members. It’s made up of communities across the state that have struggled to attract attention from private broadband providers; have difficult terrain to build infrastructure on; have residents unable to afford service fees; and have areas with some access but not the internet speeds necessary to attract high-tech economic development, according to a news release.

The group also will advocate for protections of the right to develop publicly-owned broadband services, after an amendment nearly made it into the recent state budget that would have prohibited municipalities from creating a public broadband system. That amendment was scrubbed from the final budget language.

A statement from the group stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to expanding broadband access throughout the state.

“No two systems are the same as each was designed to meet the needs of the community involved. Networks supporting educational institutions or smart cities have … been formed … and these networks have allowed communities to take control of their future. It is these communities and networks that (make up) Broadband Access Ohio with the understanding that other communities may be facing the same challenges and (it is) time to join together to share information, provide education and speak with a collective voice,” the statement read.