In some rural parts of Ohio, access to broadband seems a long way off, with entire areas lacking access to high-speed internet service. For other businesses and residents, the infrastructure is frustratingly close, but out of reach.
“We have a marbling effect throughout the rest of the state — even in suburban and urban areas — where we have a street over here or a cluster of homes over there that cannot get broadband infrastructure built out to them,” Ohio Rep. Rick Carfagna explains.
Two separate bills are being considered this year to address those two distinct problems associated with Ohio’s digital divide.
Under HB 378, the state would use some money from its existing Third Frontier Initiative ($50 million for each of the next two years from the proceeds of bond issues) to help fund broadband infrastructure projects in underserved areas of the state.
In the northwest part of Ohio that he represents, state Sen. Cliff Hite says, “wind is our shale,” an energy resource that has the potential to boost revenue on agricultural land and improve the region’s entire economy.
And the comparisons don’t stop there.
Just as the hydraulic fracturing boom has raised questions about siting and government regulations, so too has wind power. Three years ago, responding to concerns about the impact of wind-turbine installations on adjacent landowners, the Ohio Legislature tripled the state’s setback requirements for turbines, a move that Hite and others say halted the development of wind energy.
Under the 2014 law, for any operation with generating capacity of 5 MW or more, Ohio now requires a 1,125-foot minimum setback from the base of the wind turbine (plus the length of its blade) to the edge of the property line. That marked a big change from the state’s previous standards — first, a requirement that the setback from the property line be 1.1 times the height of the turbine, which amounts to about 550 feet; second, that there be a 1,125-foot setback from the turbine to the nearest home (the 2014 law changed the requirement from home to property line).
As a result of this statutory change, wind-energy proponents say, Ohio now has the most stringent siting rules in the country. In states such as Illinois and South Dakota, for example, a turbine must be set back at a distance from the property line that is 1.1 times its height. Under the Ohio law, it is approximately 2.3 times the height of the average turbine.