Affordable Internet Coming to Cleveland Area in Need

The antenna, which will be mounted atop the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center, will allow some 700 nearby residents access to Internet service that is expected to cost about $20 per month.

by Courtney Astolfi, Advance Ohio Media / September 4, 2019

(TNS) — Residents in one of the least-connected neighborhoods in Cleveland could soon have access to low-cost internet service via an antenna mounted atop the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center.

The antenna will broadcast an internet signal to two census tracts in the neighborhood, allowing the some 700 residents there access to internet service that is expected to cost about $20 per month.

“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,” said County Executive Armond Budish.

Fairfax is one of the least-connected neighborhoods in the city, and about half of the residents in the area that could be served by DigitalC have no home internet access, according to DigitalC’s Chief Executive Dorothy Baunach.

Cuyahoga County’s Board of Control on Tuesday approved a 10-year, $10-per-year license agreement with Digital C to allow the company to place an antenna on top of the Juvenile Justice Center.

Residents who participate in the program will receive a modem for inside their home, and a receiver, that will be placed on the home’s exterior.

The height of the Juvenile Justice Center makes it an ideal location to install an antenna, Baunach said, because a direct line-of-sight is needed between the antenna and the home receivers, Baunach said.

The project is part of a four-neighborhood pilot program, called empowerCLE+, which is aimed at closing the digital divide in some of Cleveland’s low-income areas.

The other neighborhoods that will participate in the pilot are Hough, Glenville, and Clark-Fulton.

If the non-profit can develop an affordable, reliable and sustainable business model, the pilot program could be expanded into other neighborhoods, Baunach said. The pilot programs are being done in partnership with neighborhood organizations, including the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, which plans to offer computer training to coincide with the internet service rollout.

Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin and County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, whose wards include Fairfax, advocated for the program.

Said Griffin: “If we really want our community to compete for 21st century jobs and Industry 4.0, it is imperative and essential that they have access to digital tools.” Not having internet access, Griffin said, puts community members “at a deficit when it comes to education, economic mobility, as well as other things you have to do online like completing health assessments.”

The county could tap other internet service providers, if interested, to provide additional internet service via the Juvenile Justice Center, Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Catherine Tkachyk told the board on Tuesday.

DigitalC is one of two successor companies to OneCommunity, which was named in subpoenas in the ongoing county criminal probe, and once employed county chief transformation information officer Scot Rourke.

County Council representatives on the Board of Control said that they initially had concerns about entering into an agreement with DigitalC, but those concerns were waylaid by a letter from the non-profit’s attorneys assuring the county that no current employees are a target or subject of the criminal investigation.

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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