Ohio State University: Ohio State hosts first meeting for statewide broadband and 5G partnership

The future of the state’s high-speed internet and wireless connectivity was at the center of discussions between industry, community and university leaders at The Ohio State University last week.

President Kristina M. Johnson joined Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), to open the first meeting of the Ohio Broadband & 5G Sector Partnership. The partnership is part of a larger effort by OWT and BroadbandOhio to grow the workforce needed to expand broadband access and 5G in Ohio.

“We know right now, that post-COVID, employers and people everywhere are expecting flexibility to work from home, work from anywhere,” Johnson said. “And if we don’t have that linkage, whether it’s in our rural communities or in our urban communities, we’re missing out on talent and jobs are going to go to the best talent and the best-educated workforce.”

Husted announced a new round of broadband and 5G-focused Individualized Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP) funding. This is the third round of the initiative, which helps those who are low income, partially unemployed or totally unemployed participate in a training program and receive a technology-focused credential at no cost.

Eligible credentials focus on fiber optics, telecommunications tower technicians, 5G readiness and other skills. Institutions that currently offer these credentials are eligible to apply, as well as institutions that intend to launch a relevant program within six months from July 1st.

“We’re trying to make sure everybody in Ohio can participate in the modern economy, education and health care system by having access to high-speed internet and the latest technologies,” Husted said. “That will enable them to do the great kinds of things that are happening here at The Ohio State University and in our education and private sector institutions around the state.”

In January, Husted announced Ohio State was awarded $3 million to design curriculum for the partnership in an effort to develop a skilled broadband workforce. Once developed, the curriculum will be available to all higher education institutions in Ohio to implement.

The initiative’s principal investigator is Professor Anish Arora, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Co-PIs are Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Eylem Ekici and Computer Science and Engineering Professor of Practice Rajiv Ramnath.

“As 5G deployment takes root in Ohio, Ohio State’s strategic priority for leading efforts in next generation communications enables an excellent alignment with the state’s goals for workforce development in this space,” Arora said. “Through the efforts of our newly launched 5G-OH Connectivity Center, we will develop and disseminate an innovative curriculum in coordination with the sector partners.”

The partnership continues to work to address skills gaps in Ohio’s labor market, inclusively engage its currently underserved and unserved populations, and help Ohio become a national leader in broadband expansion and 5G deployment. The primary outcome of the education, training and awareness programs will be a workforce prepared for sector-wide employment and advancement.

With faster data speeds, increased device density and ultralow latency, 5G is expected to transform how people and machines communicate and how industries do business, and enable “smart” and connected communities. According to research from Boston Consulting Group, 5G deployment will contribute $1.4 trillion to $1.7 trillion to U.S. GDP and create 3.8 million to 4.6 million jobs in the next decade.