The definition of infrastructure has broadened as new technologies have been introduced over the years. Broadband is a fairly new technology that was proven necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, but remains inaccessible to many Americans.
Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Senior Outreach and Educational Specialist Andrew Tinkham joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss legislation to hold utility companies accountable for taking advantage of consumers. He also updated listeners on the progress of broadband expansion funding in Ohio.
Utility companies take advantage of unsuspecting consumers
Ohio legislators are currently working on legislation that would force utility companies to provide refunds for wrongly charging consumers. Tinkham cited a Columbus Dispatch report that found utility companies were overcharging consumers by up to 40 percent.
Two pieces of legislation were introduced by Ohio lawmakers, but have seen little movement since then.
Broadband expansion in Ohio
After the back and forth on differing bills, the Ohio legislature finally came to an agreement on Broadband expansion with House Bill 2.
The bill provides $250 million in funds for a broadband expansion grant. Democrats sought more money for the expansion, but had to settle for the smaller amount after the Ohio Senate removed all funding in their budget.
Tinkham noted the definition of infrastructure is changing. Technologies such as broadband did not exist until the early 21st century and still are not accessible in many communities. He added that rural Ohio and poor urban communities typically lack access to broadband.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved broadband to be crucial, as many parents worked from home and students learned remotely. Without access to broadband, parents and students were left with few options.
Tinkham is excited that broadband expansion was made a priority, as it has become a key focus on both the national and state level.