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[Slashdot] - Ohio GOP Ends Attempt To Ban Municipal Broadband After Protest From Residents

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: After coming close to imposing a near-total ban on municipal broadband networks, Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature has reportedly dropped the proposed law in final negotiations over the state budget. The final budget agreement "axed a proposal to limit local governments from offering broadband services," The Columbus Dispatch wrote. With a June 30 deadline looming, Ohio's House and Senate approved the budget and sent it to Gov. Mike DeWine for final approval on Monday night, the Dispatch wrote. As we wrote earlier this month, the Ohio Senate approved a version of the budget containing an amendment (PDF) that would have forced existing municipal broadband services to shut down and prevented the formation of new public networks. The proposed law was reportedly "inserted without prior public discussion," and no state senator publicly sponsored the amendment. It was approved in a party-line vote as Democrats opposed the restrictions in municipal broadband. The House version did not contain the amendment, and it was dropped during negotiations between the House and Senate. Lawmakers apparently relented to public pressure from supporters of municipal broadband and cities and towns that operate the networks. People and businesses from Fairlawn, where the city-run FairlawnGig network offers fiber Internet, played a significant role in the protests. FairlawnGig itself asked users to put pressure on lawmakers, and the subscribers did so in great numbers. "We had a real grassroots movement here in Fairlawn. We are thrilled our residents, subscribers, and businesses came together and helped us defeat this amendment," Fairlawn Service Director Ernie Staten said yesterday, according to an article by the Community Networks team at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). "We appreciate that the State of Ohio recognizes that municipal broadband has a place in this state and we hope to continue this great endeavor." Fairlawn subscribers sent more than 700 emails telling lawmakers, "Don't take this (municipal broadband) away!" Staten said. The report notes that while Ohio's legislature isn't banning public networks, at least for now, it "is apparently not letting municipal networks apply for a new round of funding." "While Staten celebrated the removal of the budget amendment, he called the victory 'bittersweet,' as municipalities and electric cooperatives in the state do not have access to the proposed $250 million broadband expansion grant program that will be established when, and if, Gov. Dewine signs the budget into law," the ILSR wrote. The outcome of that isn't certain yet. "We have been asking for a small definition change to add municipalities and electric coops, but unless they changed the language, I believe the House version stands," Staten told the ILSR.

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