Coyote Works

The Result Of The Interim Blog Reset

Complicated Changes Confuse Concerned Citizens

Thu Jun 17 16:59:39 2021 — Stephen Michael Kellat

“Allow for miracles but plan for disasters.”

I tossed that one-liner out there in an interview earlier today. It shows that I’ve been following the news a wee bit. There’s been more going on that directly impacts my situation than I like.

Previously I have mentioned that I participate in Ashtabula County’s broadband task force. That’s an effort by the county government to try to improve economic development by improving part of our local infrastructure. It has been mentined by local public radio stations looking at how we have problems with broadband in my local area as recently as March of this year.

That is why a report from Ars Technica by Jon Brodkin might have been confusing to some folks out there that saw it today. If anything I am still baffled by the situation especially when I learned of it on Wednesday from local media sources. Mr. Brodkin reported that the state legislature is proposing to outlaw municipal broadband in Ohio while also prohibiting the continued operation of municipal broadband efforts like FairlawnGig that already exist. Ohio News Connection/Public News Service also talks about the situation a bit.

Due to the offices of my local state representative and local state senator not being very responsive to any contacts I have not reached out to them. They’re both first-term backbenchers. Nobody in the statehouse press corps has been able to track down who sponsored this particular provision in the omnibus budget bill required to be passed by June 30th to cover the biennium.

What makes this an emotional whipsaw is that just last month legislation for expanding broadband across the state passed the lower house of the General Assembly by a fairly wide margin per reporting on Cleveland.com. That bill, Amended House Bill 2 of the 134th General Assembly, was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine and took effect on May 17th. That bill included a twenty million dollar appropriation that grants to communities could be made out of. Originally two hundred and ten million dollars were in the proposal but most of the money was stripped out with a promise that it would be dealt with in the main state budget. I don’t think anybody expected it to be a firm rejection in the main state budget, though.

We’re allowed to hand money to private entities who have no clear commercial reason to enter some of these communities to provide service. In this county which has a land area half the size of Rhode Island but a population density one-seventh of Rhode Island’s it makes very little commercial sense to build out broadband infrastructure here. Although it is claimed that satellite broadband will make this a non-issue ViaSat doesn’t serve my local area, HughesNet offers expensive yet limited plans that make wireless company hotspot plans seem generous, and Starlink remains in the not-too-distant future for my area.

I do hope that Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted can convince enough state legislators to back off on this plan. Having a single fund of twenty million dollars for making grants to communities across the state for broadband needs will either run out quickly or result in many communities getting token amounts that they cannot effectively use. That entire fund could be used easily trying to wire up just the rural areas in my county that lack broadband, alas.

This is not a pretty situation. Within two weeks it will be resolved one way or another. The state’s operating budget must be passed by June 30th. Thankfully this cannot drag on like thing do in the federal legislature.

Tags: Ohio