The budget process is heating up in Columbus as lawmakers have until the end of the month to get Ohio’s 2022-2023 budget to Gov. Mike DeWine. In its original form, the budget had nearly $200 million for the Broadband Expansion Grant Program. After the Senate passed its version of the budget, those funds were gone.
“To see the largest public investment the state has ever had taken out of the budget was very disappointing,” said Jenna Reese, director of state policy with Ohio Farm Bureau. “We are now doubling down and making sure that lawmakers know that this is a critical need for rural Ohio, especially for farmers.”
Farm Bureau is asking members to reach out to their legislators and tell their personal stories about how a lack of reliable, affordable broadband has had an adverse impact on their livelihoods.
That outreach includes telling representatives and senators to #ConnectWithRuralOhio with a new #ExpandBroadbandOhio social media campaign. This initiative gives members a platform to share examples of how having slow, unreliable and expensive broadband service, or no service at all, impedes how they live, work and access technologies that would be advantageous in an otherwise fully connected world.
A study conducted by The Ohio State University found that 1 million Ohioans – nearly 12% – can’t get high-speed internet or are underserved where they live. Broadband access is essential for farmers to follow commodity markets, communicate with customers and access new markets around the world, and rural communities need access to health care, government services, and educational and business opportunities.
Farm Bureau recently wrote a letter to Ohio’s General Assembly, asking them to reinstate the governor’s proposed funding levels for broadband in the state’s biennial budget.