DeWine broadband plan: “Work with private sector”

In our last post we reviewed Richard Cordray’s broadband positions, outlined as part of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s infrastructure bond proposal. Recognizing that Ohio’s digital divide affects low income city residents as well as unserved rural communities, Cordray’s plan promises to support broadband initiatives by local governments; encourage commercial ISPs to use available Federal dollars to expand rural access; restore state funding for local workforce and library digital skills training programs; and create an “Office of Connectivity” to coordinate Ohio’s broadband policy.

Six days ago, Cordray’s Republican rival Michael DeWine answered with his own broadband position, included in the DeWine/Husted “Ohio Prosperity Plan”.

Here’s the DeWine plan’s broadband language in its entirety:

Expand broadband infrastructure across Ohio to make Ohio a frontrunner in mobile edge technologies. Our state cannot be tech-friendly when some people and communities don’t have access to the digital highway that allows them to participate and grow. Understanding the cost involved, the DeWine-Husted administration will work closely with the private sector to expand our broadband infrastructure.

“Mobile edge technologies” is one of AT&T’s promised “next big things” associated with 5G; see here and here.  This phrase is probably DeWine’s way of promising strong state government support for AT&T’s 5G plans in Ohio, whatever they turn out to be. (Hint: Not rural broadband.)

Other than that snippet of political code, DeWine’s broadband position simply says:

  • It’s bad for some parts of the state to lack broadband access.
  • We’re hoping that commercial ISPs will improve the situation, though we know that would cost them a lot, so we’ll “work closely” with them.

Is that a promise of more state subsidies to AT&T, Century Link, Frontier, etc.? Possibly.

But DeWine clearly isn’t promising to support Ohio communities that decide they need to take broadband access for their residents and businesses into their own hands. Or to find State dollars to help local programs that provide basic digital skills training to enable community residents to use the State’s growing array of “preferred” online tools — for job searching, unemployment reporting, Medicaid and SNAP recertification, auto registration renewal, tax return filing, etc., etc.

We’re still two and a half months away from Election Day, so we should probably look at both Cordray’s and DeWine’s current campaign positions on broadband as opening shots. But from the standpoint of digital inclusion and equity, DeWine’s “plan”, such as it is, isn’t promising.

 

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