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House Budget Proposal Creates $50 Million Ohio Broadband Pole Replacement & Undergrounding Program

The Ohio House of Representatives’ Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget (Substitute House Bill 33) includes a key new provision creating a $50 million Ohio Broadband Pole Replacement and Undergrounding Program. Creation of a fund to support efforts to expand broadband through pole replacements and undergrounding has been a priority for OCTA for several years, and we look forward to working to ensure this program remains in place as the budget moves to the Senate.

What would the House proposal do?

The House proposal commits $50 million in FY24 to support a new Ohio Broadband Pole Replacement and Undergrounding Program, which would sunset in six years. As currently written, the program would allow providers, including pole owners/affiliates that provide qualifying broadband service, to apply for a reimbursement for costs associated with pole replacements, mid-span pole installations, and undergrounding.

Why is this program needed?

A critical component of broadband expansion is ensuring providers have access to utility poles capable of holding the fiber-optic cable and other equipment necessary to deliver quality broadband service to customers. Unfortunately, due to Ohio’s aging infrastructure, many poles in rural, unserved areas are too frail, too short, or both, and must be replaced before providers can attach anything to the pole. The more pole-related delays providers encounter, the longer it takes to deliver broadband to unserved Ohioans.

Establishing the Broadband Pole Replacement and Undergrounding Program will remove a significant barrier to broadband expansion and enable providers to more quickly deploy broadband to unserved Ohioans.

Key Facts

  • Up to 80% of broadband construction in rural areas is aerial, meaning internet service providers attach their lines to utility poles to extend from one point to another. (Source: NCTA)                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • In rural areas, extending broadband for one aerial mile, on average, requires attaching broadband equipment and wires to 20 utility poles. (Source: NCTA)                                                                                     
  • In major rural broadband expansion projects, as many as 1 in 12 utility poles may need to be replaced. (Source: )                                                                                                                                                    
  • As much as 1/4 of the total expense of rural broadband buildout comes from utility pole replacements alone. (Source: )

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