Update Regarding Municipal Broadband Prohibition Amendment

A message from City Manger Joseph Stefanov:

In today’s environment, access to reliable, high-speed, secure broadband is as necessary as access to electricity. Developed through a public-private partnership with American Electric Power in 2007 and managed by WOW! Business, New Albany Net offers reliable, high-speed connectivity at affordable rates. For companies that require strong telecommunications capacity for their site infrastructure, this investment was necessary due to the lack of market-driven investment at the time of its construction. It continues to be vital to some of our community’s largest employers and public safety providers today.

New Albany Net services the Plain Township Fire Department, New Albany Police Department, Mt. Carmel New Albany Surgical Hospital, Smith’s Mill Health Campus, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bob Evans, Axium Plastics and CCL Industries, Inc., among other major employers in the region.

It has come to our attention that in the state’s operating budget process, the Senate-passed version of HB 110 includes an amendment forcing municipal broadband systems in the state to shut down and cease operations. Specifically, if enacted, the amendment would prohibit the new construction of and limit the ongoing provision of broadband and other services provided by existing government-owned networks in the state of Ohio, including restricting such networks to solely providing service to “unserved areas” within the political subdivision’s jurisdiction.

Further, the language prohibits a political subdivision from using federal funds or public services revenues to fund or subsidize the construction, deployment, purchase, lease, or operation of broadband facilities or the provision of broadband service to subscribers.

Finally, upon preliminary review of the Municipal Broadband Prohibition amendment, there appear to be substantial constitutional issues. According to our legal opinion, the provision violates various aspects of the Home Rule Powers granted to municipal corporations by the Ohio Constitution, as well as other provisions therein.

The City of New Albany has contacted our elected officials in the statehouse, requesting that the General Assembly completely remove the Municipal Broadband Prohibition provision from HB 110.

If nothing else has come out of the pandemic, it has been made clear that access to high-speed, high quality, reliable and secure broadband service is an absolute necessity for our residents and businesses. Just last month, the General Assembly reiterated this need with their creation of a program in HB 2 providing tax dollars to the private sector to establish coverage in underserved areas of the state.

Access is how we work, educate ourselves, obtain healthcare, and grow our businesses.  Competition helps, but at the same time it may be necessary for local governments to step in to ensure employers and residents have this vital service, as was the case for New Albany.

Municipalities exist to ensure their citizens have essential services. This is not the cable television of 1980. While people wanted a variety of programming to watch, their lives were not dependent upon it. That is not the case with broadband. Residents depend on service for work, children rely on it to access educational opportunities, and our seniors rely on it for medical care.

We at the City of New Albany are doing our part to encourage our state’s lawmakers to remove the Municipal Broadband Prohibition language from the state operating budget bill.