The Race to Close Ohio’s Digital Divide with Broadband

Ohio prioritizes investing in high-speed internet access
Andrew Deye, VP of Strategy, JobsOhio
Posted on

Ohio offers an attractive business climate, as evidenced by the state’s consistent Top 10 ranking in Chief Executive’s Annual CEO Survey of Best States for Business over each of the past three years.

JobsOhio continues its core mission to attract, expand, and retain businesses throughout the state. Along with our six regional partners, JobsOhio proactively seeks new ways to improve communities and works with local partners to do so. The feedback we receive from communities then confirms where we need to take action.

Currently, a pressing issue across the state is a need for reliable, high-speed internet access.

Reliable, High-Speed Internet is Essential

Of the many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most prevalent is that access to high-speed internet service remains essential for businesses and individuals to participate in the modern economy. Even before COVID-19, it was evident that certain areas of the state needed high-speed internet access to ensure economic opportunity as well as enable advanced digital services for healthcare, education, and other essential purposes.

Currently, nearly 300,000 households in Ohio (equating to nearly 1 million Ohioans) do not have access to high-speed internet. Near-universal broadband coverage in Ohio could create up to 20,000 new jobs and increase the state’s gross domestic product by $1—$3 billion. During economic recovery, that kind of boost is needed.

Moreover, telework/remote work, telemedicine, and remote learning have emerged as growing opportunities in during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why JobsOhio has been working with the DeWine-Husted Administration to invest in broadband to expand access to high-speed internet throughout Ohio.

Broader Internet Access Ensures Ohio’s Post-Pandemic Recovery

JobsOhio, as part of its stated mission, is committed to exploring creative ways to help Ohio businesses and citizens fully participate in the growth of the economy. Broader access, if achieved, would ensure the state’s economic recovery is inclusive.

Working with the DeWine-Husted Administration and partners like InnovateOhio, strides are being made to bring Ohioans reliable, fast internet access. In December 2020, Starlink, a satellite broadband service developed by SpaceX, launched a pilot in central Ohio. The pilot will test the delivery of Starlink’s space-based high speed internet to 90 households and about 10 small businesses underserved by broadband.

Numerous companies are also evaluating ways to close the “digital divide” through new investment, innovation, and cost-competitive solutions for customers.

These providers can offer different solutions to help close this divide. Such efforts are complemented by major federal investments through programs such as the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (which recently awarded $170 million to 11 winning bidders in Ohio over the next ten years).

A map of the 11 winning bidders:

FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Results Map

Enabling increased access to high-speed internet at a competitive price is a current economic development imperative. We applaud all companies – large and small – who are stepping up across Ohio to connect new customers and vow to partner where needed so we can help make these efforts successful.