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Blog // Connect Ohio

TECH WEEK: Ohio’s Shot at Being the Next Tech Hotbed

By Jessica Denson

It’s #techweek in America and the spotlight is not shining as brightly on Silicon Valley.

Instead it’s places like Indianapolis, Nashville, and Cincinnati that are getting a lot of recent attention. That’s because they’re some of the nation’s fastest growing markets for tech jobs, according to an article in Money magazine which cited ZipRecruiter.com’s latest stats on jobs.

Taking a closer look, you’ll see that Ohio is a stand-out with three cities in the top 20: Cincinnati (11), Cleveland (12), and Columbus (14). According to the publication BizWomen, the high cost of living and doing business in Silicon Valley tech communities was cited as “one reason for fast growth elsewhere.”

In short, it’s cheaper for tech employees to live in other cities and work, but only if they have access to broadband (high-speed internet). That is one big reason why Ohio and other states that are still trying to close digital divide need to act now, rather than later.

Broadband Access = Billions of Dollars for Ohio
The Ohio State University’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics recently released a study entitled “Connecting the Dots of Ohio’s Broadband Policy.”  It looked at the one million Ohioans, families and businesses, who still do not have adequate access. The impact for just that group was a whopping two billion dollars annually, and according to the study’s authors, that’s a conservative number.

That’s the impact in just one state and doesn’t account for the influx of tech workers the Buckeye State is seeing now and could see in the future. To support and attract more employees, broadband access must be improved. There is one big problem standing in the way—a lack of coordinating efforts among different Ohio agencies, communities, and broadband providers.

“Ohio leaders need to better leverage the existing data and information out there about where broadband is accessible and where it isn’t and integrate that into policymaking when it comes to things like infrastructure and transportation planning,” said Mark Rembert, a doctoral student and graduate research associate for the Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at OSU, who worked on the study. 

The study points to the work of Connect Ohio, the state subsidiary of Connected Nation (CN) which is a nonprofit working to bring technology and broadband to all families and businesses across the country.  Connect Ohio has been working to ensure all Ohioans have access to the opportunities provided through high-speed broadband connectivity including better healthcare, educational opportunities, and workforce development.

“Connect Ohio has established itself as a vital resource by collecting Ohio’s broadband data, analyzing it, and making it accessible to state policymakers,” Rembert said. “Connect Ohio is also helping local governments that oftentimes do not think of broadband as being part of comprehensive planning. Further, Connect Ohio is a neutral third party—outside of the Internet Service Providers, government officials, and even residents—which enables the organization to better coordinate various cross-sector stakeholders involved in broadband.”

Five Recommendations to Connect Workers, Families  
Rembert and his co-authors listed five recommendations to accelerate broadband expansion in Ohio while minimizing the public cost: 1) developing a state office to coordinate broadband expansion efforts across state agencies, utilizing groups like Connect Ohio; 2) adopting a state “dig once” policy; 3) strengthening public-private partnerships so that public infrastructure can be used to expand broadband access without creating anti-competitive conditions; 4) promoting local government policies that facilitate broadband; and 5) establishing a broadband investment fund to finance infrastructure.

According to the study, that infrastructure fund would be “a targeted state investment that helps to reduce the large fixed costs of building broadband infrastructure in remote rural areas.” Many states have already established state broadband funds, including Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, and Colorado.

“There are still a lot of Ohioans that don’t have broadband access,” Rembert said. “Making sure they get access will produce positive gains for the state, and the fastest way to do that is to coordinate that expansion and improve the state’s investment in it.”

“The bottom line is this: broadband gives families, individuals, farmers, and small community businesses access to a global economy, healthcare, education, and more,” said Stu Johnson, Executive Director of Connect Ohio.  “But only if those who are being connected know how to use the technology and leverage it to help themselves, their families, and their businesses. To get us there, we need to be intentional about how we use our data and how we coordinate efforts.”

Related links: Read the full report entitled “Connecting the Dots of Ohio’s Broadband Policy.”

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The C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy is a nationally and internationally recognized research and outreach program focused on priority issues related to rural and urban communities and their growth and prosperity. The Swank Program conducts and supports research, teaching, and outreach within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center; and Ohio State University Extension.

Connected Nation is a leading technology organization committed to bringing affordable high-speed internet and broadband-enabled resources to all Americans so no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide. We believe that everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. For more information, please visit: www.connectednation.org or follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.

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