Bill would offer broadband grants

A new bill introduced Wednesday in the Ohio Senate would set aside $50 million a year for grants to expand broadband internet access to rural parts of the state.

Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, and Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, introduced the bill, which would use bond revenue from the Ohio Third Frontier fund, an existing economic development initiative, to fund the expansion.

There are about 300,000 homes and nearly 90,000 businesses without access to broadband, according to a news release from the senators.

Grants up to $5 million would cover up to half the cost of bringing broadband infrastructure to underserved areas, and businesses, governments and non-profits would be eligible to apply. The program is modeled after one in Minnesota and companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives.