Cleveland nonprofit receives $20 million grant to provide internet service to underserved communities

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation along with the David and Inez Myers Foundation announced a $20 million investment to bridge the digital divide in greater Cleveland.

Cleveland-based nonprofit wireless internet provider, DigitalC, will use the grant to expand broadband connectivity in an attempt to “leverage the technology for educational, health and economic opportunities.”

The Mandel Foundation committed $15 million to the cause.

The group also committed an additional $5 million along with the Myers Foundation.

“It seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a big difference in the advancement for all of the citizens of Cleveland,” said Mandel Foundation Chairman Steve Hoffman. “Our gift is just the first step. We now need the leaders of the state and city to take advantage of federal funds that are flowing through and their own resources to join in the partnership to bring Cleveland from the worst connected city the best-connected city in the United States.”

DigitalC’s CEO told 19 News that the organization’s mission is personal to her, a longtime resident of Cleveland.

“Without that connection, the city can’t thrive,” said Dorothy Baunach. “Until everyone is connected the city cannot be what it can be. It’s a great city but it can be even greater.”

According to a news release, DigitalC has invested more than $10 million since 2016 to connect greater Cleveland’s unserved and underserved residents.

With the help of the new grant, the organization is hoping to provide 130,000 households with internet service over the next three years.

According to U.S. Census data released in 2019, nearly 80,000 Cleveland households reported not having a wireline broadband connection (cable, fiber optic, or DSL). Additionally, almost 53,000 households — 31% of the city’s total — lacked broadband subscriptions at any speed, including mobile data plans.

Those numbers rank lowest among major U.S. cities.

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