U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced new resources to connect 6,000 rural Ohioans with affordable broadband service. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund will provide Frontier Communications Corp. and CenturyLink Inc. in Ohio with $1,814,100 to build broadband infrastructure in more than 2,300 locations around Ohio over the next three years.
"The Connect America Fund supports the vast improvements our state has made in expanding broadband access," Brown said. "But more still needs to be done. By connecting rural Ohio to the Web and bridging the "digital divide', Ohio's rural schools, businesses, and communities have an opportunity to compete on a national and global level."
Currently, Ohio has the 40th lowest rate of rural broadband availability in the United States with more 40 percent of Ohio's rural population lacking high-speed Internet access. Internet affordability, reliability, and adoption challenges persist in many parts of the State.
Brown has worked tirelessly to bring broadband access to Ohio's rural communities. In April, Sen. Brown introduced the Connecting Rural America Act, which would strengthen U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that provide for the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to underserved, rural communities. This legislation was included in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act- or the Senate farm bill- which reauthorizes the existing Rural Broadband Loan Program. The farm bill passed in the Senate on June 21, 2012.
In 2010, Brown helped secure funding for a project that is expanding access to broadband for 34 counties in Appalachia. The project will deploy more than 1,900 miles of fiber optic network to connect nearly 600 community anchors. In June 2010, Brown wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in support of the OMMC for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. After the Connecting Appalachia application was denied in the first round of consideration, Brown's office convened a roundtable of stakeholders in preparation for the second round. In March 2010, Brown also wrote to National Telecommunications and Information Administration Assistant Secretary Strickling in support of the OMMC Connecting Appalachia application.