The internet continues to link itself to nearly every aspect of our daily lives: business, news, entertainment, communication, shopping, and education, just to name a few. The incredible benefits offered by information technologies have led individuals, businesses, and public institutions to become more reliant on the internet. As this transformation in how we communicate and do business has occurred, access to reliable internet has become a necessity for individuals and businesses.
Great progress has been made to achieve near universal access to broadband internet. Ninety percent of the US population and 92 percent of Ohioans already have access to internet services that meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum broadband speeds of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. Yet, more than 1 million Ohioans still lack the access to fast, reliable broadband services in their homes. This un-served population largely lives in less populated rural regions of the state where it is prohibitively expensive for internet service providers to extend service.
Broadband policy is complicated. It is composed of a mix of policies, regulations, and programs at the federal, state, and local levels. Effective broadband policy should aim to create a cohesive plan for aligning these various efforts targeted towards expanding broadband access at the lowest possible costs. Ohio has a great opportunity to strengthen its broadband policy to build on its past success.
Recognizing these complexities, this analysis aims to make three contributions to Ohio’s broadband policy. We begin by describing the current broadband environment nationally and in Ohio, focusing on the geographic patterns of broadband access and broadband adoption. Second, we provide an analysis of the existing economics literature on the benefits of broadband. Third, we describe the existing policy infrastructure at the federal and state levels, and finally we offer some concluding remarks and recommendations on ways of strengthening Ohio’s broadband access.