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DeWine visits Middletown to sign affordable internet access bill

DeWine in Midldletown
Posted at 5:47 PM, May 17, 2021

With strokes from 10 commemorative pens and one from his suit coat pocket, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 2 this morning in Middletown.

The law will provide affordable access to high-speed internet to Butler County communities in hopes of bridging the gap for families and making it easily for their children to learn.

The bill provides $20 million to fund the broadband project with plans to secure $200 million in funding that has wide support from Republicans and Democrats, DeWine said during a press conference at Amanda Elementary School in Middletown.

The high-speed internet will cost residents $15 a month, and there will be antennas located throughout the area.

Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said it’s time to “tackle and knock down” the gap between those with affordable access to broadband and those without. He said that differences in access to technology and internet is a divide that plagues many parts of America, and it’s a big problem among low-income families in Middletown.

Middletown is one of the few school systems in southwest Ohio at which 100 percent of school families fall within household income categories to qualify for federal free and reduced school meals.

About 20 percent of Middletown’s 6,300 students come from homes without access either via internet cable or wireless systems to digital learning programs produced by their teachers in the district. Many students also lack computers, or other mobile devices on which to learn digitally, said district officials.

Every student at Amanda receives free and reduced lunch because of their financial situation, said Principal Beth Hendricks.

“Finally there is some equity,” she said after the press conference. “Our kids have access to all the different things that people all around the county have and take for granted.”

She said the access is “a game changer” for her students.

After signing the bill DeWine handed out commemorative pens to several Amanda students and school officials.