Local Partnership Expands Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet in Central Neighborhood

Logos: Cuyahoga County, Digital C, Cleveland Public Library - The People's University

Central neighborhood residents are now able to sign up for affordable, high-speed internet, with service rolling out this month.

The project is part of the Central Neighborhood Surge, an initiative designed to push a host of Cuyahoga County resources into an area faced with historic disinvestment. This broadband initiative represents more than $660,000 investment by Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Public Library, and DigitalC.

Phase one of the rollout began January 15, connecting up to 300 households. The second phase will begin in April, connecting 200 households in the Central neighborhood by providing modems and other wireless equipment, as well offering access to devices, digital literacy training and other support to empower residents.

Cleveland Public Library applied for and received approximately $330,000 in funding from the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The Library was one of 512 library systems nationwide to receive funding. The County contributed $330,000, with additional investments from DigitalC, a local non-profit focused on making Cleveland’s digital future equitable.

Over half of the 4,726 households in Central are unconnected; the neighborhood has the lowest median neighborhood income in the County at just over $10,000 per household.

“Having access to affordable, high-speed internet can change the lives of our residents,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “This installation is one facet of our larger ‘surge’ effort in the Central neighborhood and can have a tremendous impact on access to opportunities primarily available through the internet.”

DigitalC’s fixed wireless internet service provider, EmpowerCLE+, was introduced to the Central neighborhood in 2020. It currently serves 55 customers in Central and a total of nearly 1,200 in Clark-Fulton, Fairfax, Glenville, Hough and Woodhill-Buckeye neighborhoods.

Residents interested in signing up for this $18-a-month service when it becomes available are encouraged to contact EmpowerCLE+ at 216-777-3859. Subsidies are available to cover the monthly cost for customers.

“Bridging Cleveland’s digital divide relies on the combined efforts of so many, and we are grateful for Cuyahoga County’s leadership and support,” said DigitalC Chief Executive Dorothy Baunach. “Also partnering with Cleveland Public Library in the neighborhoods is critical to our mission. They help foster community engagement, connect us with potential customers and collaborate to ensure that devices, training and technical support are accessible, so residents can achieve better health, education and economic opportunities.”

As part of the program, residents who sign up to become Cleveland Public Library patrons and certify that they are not receiving any additional internet subsidy will receive internet service at no cost through June 30, 2022. 

“Cleveland Public Library is committed to helping bridge the digital divide,” said Felton Thomas, Jr., Executive Director and CEO of Cleveland Public Library. “Our partnership with Cuyahoga County and DigitalC will allow families to survive in a world that is becoming more reliant on digital platforms. We strongly believe this initiative will help Clevelanders keep up in a rapidly changing environment.”

Library systems have long played a critical role by connecting residents to the internet in local branches and providing digital literacy training for all audiences, which is why Cleveland Public Library and DigitalC have collaborated since 2018.

The County continues to pursue opportunities to close the digital divide, including solutions proposed in an RFP that closed in September.

“Digital access is critical because it helps residents connect to services, search for jobs, and stay engaged with their family and friends,” said Cuyahoga County Chief Innovation & Performance Officer Catherine Tkachyk. “This is an important opportunity to improve access in one of the least connected neighborhoods in Cuyahoga County.”

About Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County is focused on economic growth and opportunity, fairness and equity, and a government that gets results. We believe that we can create and support a vibrant and prosperous region where everyone thrives and all things are possible. For more information on Cuyahoga County please visit cuyahogacounty.us. Follow us on social media:

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About Cleveland Public Library

Founded in 1869, Cleveland Public Library serves the residents of Cleveland through its network of 27 neighborhood branches, the Main Library downtown, Public Administration Library at City Hall, homebound delivery services, and mobile services to daycare and senior centers. From a collection of 10.5 million items, the Library lends nearly 6 million items a year to its 300,000 registered borrowers and to 45 other CLEVNET-member libraries in 12 counties across Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Public Library is home to the Ohio Center for the Book and the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, serving all 88 counties in the state of Ohio. For more information, visit cpl.org

About DigitalC

DigitalC is a local non-profit focused on bridging Cleveland’s digital divide by connecting residents to reliable, affordable high-speed internet and collaborating with community partners to provide devices, digital literacy training and tech support. Through its fixed wireless internet service provider, EmpowerCLE+, the organization has a 24-month plan to provide access to affordable broadband service throughout Cleveland’s 34 neighborhoods. DigitalC is located in Midtown Cleveland with offices at the Midtown Tech Hive. For more information, visit: www.digitalc.org or www.empowercle.org.