County Partners with DigitalC on Pilot to Provide Fairfax Neighborhood Low-Cost In-Home Internet Access

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Devyn Giannetti: (216) 443-8393, 

‘Connecting Cuyahoga’ Report Further Details Need for Digital Inclusion

— The Office of Innovation & Performance and the Department of Public Works received approval today from the Board of Control for a license agreement with DigitalC to place an antenna on top of the Juvenile Justice Center. This antenna, along with other equipment installed by DigitalC, will provide a portion of the Fairfax Neighborhood with access to a low-cost internet service.

The primary goal of the project is to expand digital access in an underserved neighborhood. This is a pilot project that will determine if DigitalC, a non-profit organization, can provide Fairfax residents with affordable, reliable, sustainable fixed wireless broadband.

“Internet access is critical to day-to-day life,” said County Executive Armond Budish. “So much is online—you need access to apply for jobs, do your homework and pay your bills. We are aiming to provide in-home broadband access to our residents so that they can more easily access services, do their schoolwork and not be left behind others who have access, and therefore make our community more prosperous.”

The effort to become more digitally inclusive as a County aligns with a report initiated by the Office of Innovation & Performance, titled “Connecting Cuyahoga: Investment in Digital Inclusion Brings Big Returns for Residents and Administration.”

The “Connecting Cuyahoga” report was compiled by Connected Insights, a non-profit corporation that conducts solution-oriented social science research and evaluation of social equity, economic development and digital inclusion efforts made by nonprofit organizations, government programs and community leaders. Seventy percent of the report was funded by the Cleveland Foundation, with the County putting in matching funds.

“What I found most valuable from the Connecting Cuyahoga report was drawing attention to where digital inclusion efforts require additional emphasis, including supporting the growing aging population and those households hovering around the poverty threshold,” said Cleveland Foundation Digital Innovation & Chief Information Officer, Leon Wilson. “Within both of these demographics, we need to work aggressively toward finding scalable approaches that can generate substantive impact in alleviating challenges inhibiting full digital engagement of our residents.”

A key takeaway from the report is how increases in broadband adoption over time would positively impact the County. An increase in broadband can lead to significant economic growth, enhanced community prosperity and a higher population of residents with full-time employment. Information technology use in communities can be associated with many benefits for governments, including greater access to government information and services, more trust and confidence in government, better health outcomes and increased social connections for isolated seniors.

“The Connecting Cuyahoga report shows us what we really need to know—that nearly one in four households in Cuyahoga County have no internet access of any kind, and more than one half of households making less than $20,000 in annual income lack home internet access,” said Chief Innovation & Performance Officer, Catherine Tkachyk. “This report aligns with our work on this pilot project and solidifies our understanding of the importance of making broadband accessible to all.”

“As DigitalC works to make Greater Cleveland’s digital economy more equitable, our number one priority is bringing broadband connectivity to our most underserved neighborhoods,”
said Dorothy C. Baunach, CEO of DigitalC. “Ensuring adoption and fostering innovation in our communities is vital to empowering residents to live more healthy, connected and prosperous lives. Following proof-of-concept in Fairfax, we will engage both the public and private sector as we continue our four-neighborhood pilot and test our community-based model. We are appreciative of the support from and partnership with the city and County as we work to make Cleveland more connected.”

Installation work will begin in September.