Washington, D.C. –U.S Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today wrote to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging their support for Ohio applicants to the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP), which will invest more than $7 billion to provide un served and underserved communities with broadband access. Brown led the fight in Congress alongside Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to include funding to expand broadband access. 

“Broadband access is a matter of equal opportunity,” Brown wrote in his letter to Sec. Vilsack and Sec. Locke.  “In terms of the future economic prosperity of Ohio’s communities, broadband infrastructure is currently a limiting factor when it could be an engine of development and job creation.”  The full contents of Brown’s letter can be found HERE

Brown also emphasized Ohio’s unique opportunity to utilize a portion of the $7.2 billion in rural broadband development funds. With expanded broadband access, Ohio could generate $5.2 billion, and create or protect 96,000 jobs throughout the state. Last month, Brown held a first-of-its kind summit, which connected more than 200 potential Ohio broadband providers with the USDA officials responsible for the administration of funds. To read more about the summit click HERE.

The challenges of living in a rural area are often great. The high cost of providing broadband access in less populated areas means that rural dwellers are significantly less likely to have broadband access than their suburban and urban counterparts. This has created a “digital divide,” undermining economic development and online educational opportunities in rural communities. A 2006 study by MIT found that communities with wide access to broadband experienced faster job growth and new business development.  A later report by the Brookings Institution found that for every one percent of increased broadband access, a state could expect 0.2-0.3 percent growth in employment. The median revenue among broadband-connected businesses in Ohio grew twice as fast as those that do not use broadband, according to a study by Connect Ohio.