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Connectivity: Ohio passes law to help connect state to high-speed internet access

Gov. Mike{ }DeWine signs broadband bill at Middletown school (WKRC)
Gov. Mike DeWine signs broadband bill at Middletown school (WKRC)
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MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WKRC) - The governor signed a new law Monday to increase access to residential broadband.

House Bill 2 creates a grant program to increase infrastructure for high-speed internet to underserved areas in the state of Ohio.

Local 12 first covered the bill last general assembly when it was House Bill 13.

Rep. Rick Carfagna is the legislator who wrote the bill that led to the law.

“So three general assemblies, four house speakers, two governors, two senate presidents -- that’s how long it’s taken for us to get here,” Carfagna said.

Now Ohio will have more access to high-speed internet, regardless of where you live. For Middletown third-grader Hailee Rogers it's one step closer to an education without interruption.

“I can learn, like, more than I used to,” Rogers said. “I want to get good grades and stuff.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine came to Amanda Elementary School Monday to sign House Bill 2 into law. The law will help connect 400 families around Middletown who don't currently have existing high-speed access to the internet.

“Our goal in Ohio is for every family, every Ohioan, to have access to high-speed internet,” DeWine said. “This is doable.”

Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles has been working with local partners to bring more internet to his students throughout the pandemic.

“Students want to make sure they can continue learning when they get off the school bus,” Styles said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the Middletown project will cost $125,000.

“Community by community, we are building a quilt,” Husted said. “We patch it here. We patch it there. We solve the problem.”

This map shows the underserved communities leaving more than 1 million Ohioans unconnected. The new law works like this: It creates a framework for the state to give $20 million a year into grants that local broadband providers can apply for to increase the infrastructure of high-speed internet access to all areas across the state.

“When we talk about kids that don’t have access ... to high-speed internet, it’s heartbreaking,” Carfagna said.

Prior to working in the state legislature, Carfagna worked for 16 years in the broadband industry.

“This day is a long time coming,” Carfagna said. “I’ve been working on this bill for about five years now, but it’s a longer time coming for those who have been deprived of this resource.”

It will also help connect thousands to work and telehealth.

For Tiffany Hamm, Rogers' mom, the law means new opportunities for her daughter and her classmates.

“It's going to open so many doors for them,” Hamm said. “It's exciting they get to better their education.”

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The federal government also passed an emergency broadband benefit program, which offers $50 a month to those living at or below the federal poverty level.

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