CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Cleveland was recently named the worst-connected large city in the country, and the pandemic has only made it more evident that needs to change, quickly.
The non-profit Digital C is working to make digital access equitable, with the goal of having everyone in Cleveland connected to high speed internet in their home.
They were working toward this before, but COVID really exposed the issue, according to Digital C CEO, Dorothy Baunach.
Their campaign, EmpowerCLE, has installers on the ground and in some cases on the tops of buildings, connecting students and seniors with the internet to help them keep up and stay healthy.
“Unfortunately in Cleveland there are huge internet desserts where there are large portions of the population, where even if you wanted to have the digital connectivity, there’s just not enough available. There are some studies that show that up to 50 percent of some neighborhoods in Cleveland have no broadband access,” said Brant Silver
Baunach says 52,000 households in the City of Cleveland have absolutely no subscription to the internet in their house and about 79,000 have no high speed internet connection.
“They may have mobile phones but if you’re a student trying to do your homework on your phone, or someone trying to apply to college on a mobile phone, you just can’t. You can’t apply for a job, or get your health care records, or social service benefits. The internet is almost a utility for the 21st century,” she said.
Instead of digging fiber in the ground, crews are creating fiber rings in the sky off of tall buildings, and taking a line of sight from households.
They’re working toward connecting all 38,000 CMSD students.
Right now they have the infrastructure to reach people in the Fairfax, Hough, Glenville, Clark-Fulton and Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhoods.
By this week they’ll have installed and reached 400 households.
Clark-Fulton resident Rodney Lewallen is glad to see that multiple devices an be used at once and that the signal is reliable.
“I have a fixed income, and being able to afford the internet and being connected, and do everything is a sigh of relief, because I don’t have to worry about paying other bills and i think that echoes in our community,” he said.
They’re getting people connected, distributing devices and facilitating digital literacy classes, all while fundraising to make this happen.
The service is less than $20 a month, including taxes and there is no charge for equipment or installation.
CMSD is covering the cost for students, and there are subsidies available that will make it more like $10 dollars a month for others.
Workers are canvasing neighborhoods to get people signed up and you can also call 216-777-3859 to inquire about service.