Local Internet Choice Wins in Ohio: Budget Language Removed That Would Have Terminated the State’s Community Broadband Initiatives

CLIC congratulates the communities and companies of the state of Ohio for blocking passage of a barrier to broadband opportunity and competition. In early June, language was surreptitiously inserted into Senate amendments to a state budget bill that would have prohibited existing and future community broadband initiatives in the state, including public-private partnerships. CLIC joined a state-wide opposition effort by organizing a letter with a coalition of twenty prominent companies and national organizations to ensure that state legislators and the Governor understood the enormous detrimental impact these provisions would have, not only the public sector, but on the private sector as well.

As CLIC’s letter states:

“While the harm that these proposed restrictions would do to Ohio’s communities should be obvious, the injury to the private sector may not be. In fact, the restrictions would hurt the private sector in multiple ways. They would prevent private companies from making timely sales of equipment and services to public networks. They would impede companies from using advanced public networks to offer businesses and residential customers an endless array of modern products and services. They would thwart economic and educational opportunities that can contribute to a skilled workforce that would benefit existing and new businesses across the state. They would also discourage companies from entering into creative public-private partnerships that benefit all concerned.”

Media coverage of the Senate language noted that it would have effectively pulled the plug on nearly three dozen municipal broadband networks across the state, including well known systems in Hudson, Wadsworth & Fairlawn, while also preventing any new community broadband networks.  As the COVID-19 pandemic had made unmistakably clear, much more broadband infrastructure, not less, is necessary.

On June 28, the budget bill passed out of the Ohio House-Senate Conference Committee on a vote of 6-0, without the anti-municipal broadband language. On June 30, the budget bill passed the House and Senate and was sent to Governor DeWine without the detrimental broadband language. Unfortunately, in a bill enacted in May, the state had previously made community-run operations ineligible for a share of the state’s $250 million grant allocation for broadband deployments.

A copy of CLIC’s letter can be found here.

Fairlawn, Ohio, one of the state’s largest community-run broadband operations in the state, covered these events here: