Expanding Internet availability in Ohio
A proposal to expand accessibility to broadband internet service in Ohio may have its bugs, but state lawmakers should pursue it.
It is unfortunate, but the cost of providing broadband service in some regions of the state — including in rural sections of eastern Ohio — is high enough to discourage the effort by private companies. Some help from the public sector may be essential.
A bill proposed in the General Assembly would create the Ohio Broadband Development Grant Program. It would have as much as $100 million to fund service area expansions. No more than $5 million could go to a single project.
Critics of the proposal have some excellent points. One is how the program would define underserved areas eligible for state funding. Obviously, steps would have to be taken to ensure politically powerful regions did not get money at the expenses of other areas.
Another concern is whether the state should be competing with private internet providers. The short answer is no. Government is supposed to provide services the private sector cannot, not compete with it.
Finally, there is the concern about government spending that much money. Technology has proved to be an opportunity for many, both in and out of government, to reap enormous, sometimes unearned, riches.
If all those flaws and others in the bill can be corrected, it ought to be enacted. Broadband internet service is not a luxury. It has proven to be a necessity, and the state may have to step in to ensure many Ohioans do not lack it.