Cera bill to expand high-speed internet access clears first hurdle

COLUMBUS– State Reps. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, this week offered sponsor testimony before the House Finance Committee on House Bill 378, legislation to create the Ohio Broadband Development Grant Program, an effort designed to encourage the expansion of broadband technology to unserved areas in Ohio.

“All across our state, people are using the internet every day to build their businesses, complete their coursework and stay connected,” Cera said. “In many rural areas of the state, the lack of access to these critical services hurts growth and hinders economic development. HB 378 strengthens our broadband infrastructure so that businesses, students and residents in rural Ohio can compete on equal footing.”

HB 378 appropriates $100 million over the next two years from the proceeds of bonds issued to support Ohio’s Third Frontier Program. Political subdivisions, businesses, nonprofits and co-ops would all be eligible to participate in the grant program, which will be administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency.

“It is my hope this legislation will assist local entities throughout the state as they work with providers to expand service and modernize wireless infrastructure,” Smith said. “Ensuring high-speed broadband capability will help our region and the entire state remain competitive nationally and continue to be a desirable place to live, work and visit.”

Additional public hearings on HB 378 have yet to be announced.