MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation Monday creating a grant program meant to help expand broadband access in underserved and rural areas around Ohio.

The Republican visited an elementary school in Middletown to sign the measure, which provides $20 million this year for the new Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program. DeWine proposed providing additional funding for broadband expansion in the state budget, and lawmakers are considering that.

Supporters of the effort say high-speed internet access is not a luxury but a necessity these days — an issue highlighted during the pandemic as more people relied on broadband for remote work and school and staying connected.

State officials say an estimated 300,000 households and more than 1 million residents across Ohio lack high-speed internet.

The program is intended to help overcome the cost hurdles that dissuade broadband providers from connecting hard-to-reach homes. The grants would fund the so-called “last mile” parts of such projects that providers might otherwise consider cost-prohibitive and unjustifiable from a business perspective.