To the Editor:
Much of Northwest Ohio, including communities around Bowling Green, lack access to reliable, high-speed internet. As a small business owner in Weston, I use a hotspot to conduct business because I, like so many folks outside of large metropolitan areas of Ohio, do not have broadband access.
Fortunately, between funding from Trump administration legislation and the new infrastructure bill, billions in investment will soon be made to bring high-speed internet to underserved and rural areas.
However, there’s a little-known but incredibly important challenge standing in the way of increasing broadband access.
Because most internet service providers don’t own the rights to the utility poles they need access to, they have to pay the owners for the right to use them. The companies are ready and willing to pay for pole access, but pole owners often drag their feet during the permitting process.
All of this creates a slow, bureaucratic process that drives up consumer costs, wastes taxpayer dollars, and ultimately slows down or prevents providers from bringing broadband to the communities that need it most.
It is vital that Congress address this unnecessary challenge and ensure the federal government’s investment in broadband expansion is spent efficiently and allows projects to move quickly.
That includes common sense solutions that will cost taxpayers nothing, like increasing transparency through consistent timelines for permits and access to poles, making sure costs to replace old poles are split fairly, and ensuring disputes between pole owners and those deploying broadband are heard and resolved quickly. Small businesses need high-speed internet to compete.
Our member of Congress, Rep. Bob Latta should – and I believe that he will – help make that a reality.
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