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Toledo Legal News - News DeWine announces plan to extend broadband to more Ohioans

 

The innovation arm of Gov. Mike DeWine's administration recently announced a plan to aggressively expand and enhance the state's broadband network.

The Ohio Broadband Strategy aims to leverage state assets and resources in such a manor to encourage public-private partnerships and coordinate broadband expansion with economic development initiatives, a press release detailed.

The development represents a continued commitment to reach the estimated 1 million Ohioans who lack access to broadband internet.

"The lack of broadband connectivity throughout Ohio is putting us at a competitive disadvantage," DeWine said in a prepared statement. "Our team at InnovateOhio is working to improve access for Ohioans and build a best-in-class network throughout the state."

Ohio's strategy identifies goals that include a telehealth pilot to provide mental health services to underserved areas of the state, increasing high-speed connectivity in these areas while supporting public health - another mission of the administration.

Most notably, the strategy defines a pathway forward for opening access to limited access rights of way along state highways and routes in exchange for private sector assistance in expanding access to unserved Ohioans.

Through a statewide grant program, the strategy also develops a plan for working with the state legislature to assist in increasing coverage access.

InnovateOhio's broadband maps show estimated service areas for four levels of access: 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload; 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload; 50 Mbps download /5 Mbps upload; and 100 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload.

"The Ohio Broadband Strategy is a crucial step forward in our efforts to bridge the digital divide and deliver high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas of this state," Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. "This plan represents both a necessary step so Ohio can compete for federal resources as well as a collective effort across public and private sectors to reach areas currently lacking connectivity."

If approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the new strategy is expected to qualify local governments in Ohio to receive 20 additional points on applications for federal ReConnect funding.

The new strategy was inspired by the work of other states that have created an internet grant program in response to the high cost often associated with expanding service in some locations, specifically low-population areas and rural communities, officials said.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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