4 October 2023

Digital Technology Guru

Digital Technology Guru Reviews

The Digital Divide: Expanding Broadband Access in Ohio

2 min read
The Digital Divide: Expanding Broadband Access in Ohio

Access to high-speed internet has become crucial for various activities, including virtual doctor’s appointments and homework. However, many Ohio residents still lack this essential service. A recent analysis of Broadband Ohio’s data reveals that less than half of the populated areas in most Ohio counties have broadband access. The disparity between rural and urban areas is particularly striking. While 98% of households in Franklin County, home to Columbus, have broadband, only 12% of households in Monroe County can say the same.

Geoff Andrews, the chairman of Broadband Access Ohio, attributes this digital divide to various factors. The hilly topography of Southeast Ohio creates challenges in connecting remote residents. Additionally, private internet companies prefer to focus on densely populated areas, as it is more cost-effective to acquire a larger customer base. Andrews emphasizes that public-private partnerships are crucial for expanding broadband access across the state. While private sector innovation is essential, local communities, with their understanding of the residents’ needs, must be actively involved in the process.

Efforts to bridge the digital divide in Ohio are underway, with both federal and state governments investing millions of dollars into broadband expansion. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, also known as BEAD, is the largest investment, expected to bring high-speed internet to 183,000 households. Other initiatives include the Department of Agriculture’s $21 million ReConnect loan to expand rural broadband in Sandusky and Ottawa counties, the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program’s $77.5 million to fund last-mile broadband infrastructure projects, and $85 million through Ohio’s Appalachian Community Innovation Campuses Program.

While these investments are significant, Andrews believes that more time and funding are necessary to level the playing field of broadband in Ohio. He likens broadband to a utility that should be available to every residence in Ohio, highlighting the importance of access for the state to remain competitive in the 21st-century economy.

In conclusion, expanding broadband access across Ohio, particularly in rural areas, is a priority. Efforts that combine public and private resources are key to bridging the digital divide. However, additional time and funding are required to ensure that everyone in Ohio has access to this essential service.

Definitions:
1. Broadband: High-speed internet access that provides faster data transmission rates compared to traditional dial-up connections.
2. Digital divide: The gap between those who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not.
3. Public-private partnerships: Collaborations between government entities and private companies aimed at achieving common goals or providing public services.

Sources:
– Broadband Ohio data analysis
– Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD)
– Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect loan
– Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program
– Ohio’s Appalachian Community Innovation Campuses Program