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Gov. Kasich Celebrates Spending $13 million on GON while cutting Billions for Schools and Public Safety

December 13, 2012

Ohio Governor John Kasich yesterday hit the switch on the state’s revamped government-owned network, OARnet. According to officials, the system can now support speeds between 10 and 100 gigabits.

When Gov. Kasich announced the expansion of OARnet he said it would cost taxpayers $10 million, but the final price tag, according to The Columbus Dispatch, will be closer to $13 million. The added funds, the paper said, were needed to expand access to two additional cities. (Nine total cities have access through the expansion.)

With the national political debate focusing on the “Fiscal Cliff” and the impending $50 billion in cuts to take place automatically on January 1st, $10-13 million may seem like an insignificant number. Well you remember the saying “A billion here, a billion there. Eventually you start talking about real money.” Well, to CNE and the people in Uniopolis, OH, $10 million is REAL money.

In March 2012 the Los Angeles Times covered the story of Uniopolis, a “small village of low-slung houses and squeaky swing sets in Western Ohio’s farm country,” that was “facing disincorporation because it can’t stay afloat.” After “[laying] off its part-time police officer and [deciding] not to replace its maintenance worker” the city was still facing a slow fiscal death because of Gov. Kasich’s cuts to the Ohio State budget.

Small towns are not the only ones suffering from Gov. Kasich’s budget cuts. According to Innovation Ohio (IO), a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, “62 of Ohio’s 88 counties (83%) [had] school levies” aka new taxes “requesting ‘new money’ on the November 2012 ballot.” The reason, says IO is that “new money requests have become more prolific since Gov. Kasich and his legislative allies cut $1.8 billion from school districts.”

And what is Gov. Kasich doing while small towns in Ohio are dying off and schools are shutting down buildings and charging students extra to play sports? He is boasting about the new 100 gig OARnet.

“This is like 4G times a billion … This is the real thing where we can send amazing amounts of data, videos, file transfers, the kinds of things that can be used at great distances to communicate back and forth with people who are engaged in anything from the development of businesses to the practice of medicine. It is of unlimited potential for the state of Ohio.” – Gov. Kasich

Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee said the network shows Ohio “is really cool.”

This statement is something once said about the Chattanooga one gig network. Of course, the coolness factor waned a little when it was revealed the system costs more than $555 million and couldn’t offer one gig service to a small business in town that wanted it at anything near a reasonable price.

In their announcement Gov. Kasich and President Gee outlined the enormous benefits of faster broadband speeds. We do not dispute these benefits – faster broadband speeds will have a positive impact on the state’s educational and business climate, but other cities and states have spent much more money and promised slower speeds. Taxpayers and consumers have been not only been severely misled, they have paid for these broken promises through higher taxes, reduced competition from the private sector (since private investors are less likely to move where the government already has a monopoly), and service interruptions when these networks eventually go under.

Being “cool” comes at a high cost. We’ve seen this in Utah (higher taxes) and Tennessee (budget cuts for other services) and now in Ohio. Those offsets are something Governor Kasich did not outline for Ohioans yesterday.

He should have.