Partnership Will Provide Low or No Cost, High-Speed Internet Access to Roughly 25,000 Households.
The following was originally shared in a press release from Cuyahoga County here.
CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH — Whether for health care, employment services, or education, access to the internet has become essential. Yet far too many residents have not been able to connect to vital services. Cuyahoga County has been one of the worst connected in the nation. But our new partnership program should take the county from one of the worst to one of the first. Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio are investing $20 million into a partnership with local non-profit PCs for People to provide in-home, high-speed internet access to roughly 25,000 Cuyahoga County households in many of the County’s least connected communities.
PCs for People will build a fixed wireless network that can support approximately 20,000 suburban households across 77 census tracts where more than 20% of the population is unconnected and the average income is below the County’s area median income. In addition, a wired approach will be used in multi-dwelling units like housing authority complexes and privately-owned apartments. This will add up to 5,000 households for a total network capacity of 25,000. The County is focusing on broadband in unconnected suburban communities as a part of the region’s long-term strategy for digital inclusion.
The cost of the service for a resident will be $15 a month. But those residents who qualify for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, can have the cost of service fully covered through ACP’s $30 a month subsidy. Additionally, PCs for People can provide residents with a free or low-cost computer. Families that qualify for ACP can receive a computer for $11.
“Some residents are forced to choose between access to the internet and paying for their next meal. No one should ever have to make that choice,” said County Executive Armond Budish. “The State has pledged $9.7 million to match the County’s commitment to connect residents to affordable, high-speed internet. This initiative makes it clear that the partners understand that this is not just an investment in lasting infrastructure, but an investment into our residents’ well-being.”
“This project is a result of focused efforts on both the state and local level to address a critical need in Cuyahoga County,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “In order to participate in the modern economy, education and healthcare system, Ohioans need access to broadband, and with this announcement, we are making that access a reality. As our administration continues to prioritize broadband expansion, we look forward to working with our partners on the local level, along with the private sector, to bridge the digital divide wherever we can.”
“Cuyahoga County has seen how the pandemic exacerbated the digital divide for our families,” said County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. “This long-term, sustainable approach will help ensure thousands of households get connected to internet, which has now become a necessity in today’s world.”
Connectivity will be conducted in a phased approach based on where equipment is already in place, or PCs for People has agreements in place to use buildings for towers and equipment. Phase I will include the cities of Brooklyn, Bedford, East Cleveland, Parma, Warrensville Heights, and five neighborhoods in the City of Cleveland. Resident service sign-on is anticipated to be available in January 2023. Phases II and III will be implemented in subsequent years, with 17 total municipalities receiving access by June 2024.
“This initiative will provide valuable technology access to residents, not just through internet, but also through providing access to low-cost computers and digital skills training through the Cuyahoga County Public Libraries and other agencies across the community,” said PCs for People CEO Casey Sorensen.
“Closing the digital divide is critical to Greater Cleveland’s growth and prosperity, and it is a priority for our business community. We appreciate the leadership and partnership of Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio to address this issue in our community,” said president and CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership Baiju Shah. In addition to connecting residents to the internet, residents are able to access training programs through a variety of partners, including Cuyahoga County Public Library, to build the digital literacy skills they need to successfully navigate the Internet.
“As this exciting investment from the State and County will bring access to affordable connectivity to many on the wrong side of the digital divide, the Library is prepared to help residents develop the digital literacy skills they need to safely and effectively use the Internet,” said Tracy Strobel, chief executive officer of Cuyahoga County Public Library.
“Connectivity is intrinsically tied to economic opportunity and a necessity to keep pace in our digital world. Unfortunately, many people lack a meaningful internet connection, reliable device or digital skills,” said Vickie Robinson, General Manager, Microsoft Airband Initiative. “That’s why Microsoft is thrilled to support PCs for People as they expand their impactful work in Ohio and help close the digital divide in Cuyahoga County.”
To learn more about the County’s work helping residents get connected, listen to the County’s “Let’s Talk Cuyahoga Podcast,” anywhere podcasts can be found.