© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Ideastream

Ohio's Project To Expand High-Speed Internet Launches In East Cleveland

Gov. Mike DeWine (left) and PCs for People's Bryan Mauk (right) looking at one of the modems being distributed to increase broadband access.
Taylor Haggerty
/
ideastream
Gov. Mike DeWine (left) and PCs for People's Bryan Mauk (right) looking at one of the modems being distributed to increase broadband access.

A new pilot program will bring affordable high-speed internet service to residents in a digitally redlined part of Northeast Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in East Cleveland Wednesday alongside state and local officials.

The first phase of the broadband expansion project will connect 1,000 families to high-speed internet through a tower at Mayfair Elementary School. National organization PCs for People will serve as the internet service provider (ISP) and will supply the necessary modems for local households.

“We know this is going to help students here, it’s going to help the community, and it’s one step as we move forward towards making this accessible to all citizens in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said.

Modems for the program cost about $120 each, DeWine said, but PCs for People is fundraising and pursuing other methods to cover those costs. Internet service will be available for just $15 a month, he said.

“Because it’s not just having the ability to access it. You have to eliminate the barriers. And sometimes the economics are a barrier, the dollar costs are a barrier,” DeWine said. “Yeah, we can bring it to you, but you can’t afford to pay for it.”

Priority access will be given to students in the East Cleveland school district, said PCs for People chief innovation officer Bryan Mauk. The Mayfair tower covers an area of about half a mile, he said, so families also need to live in that part of the neighborhood.

East Cleveland as a whole has been “digitally redlined,” Mauk said, and this program can help bridge that digital divide.

“We wanted it to be both fast and reliable internet, but also affordable,” Mauk said. “Fifteen dollars a month is our cap on what we want to charge, because we know beyond that, it gets very difficult to afford.”

The first service tower is already installed at Mayfair Elementary and connection hardware distribution is ongoing, Mauk said. The program plans to expand to include more towers and scale up to 2,000 families over the next few months.

The state initially reached out to traditional internet service providers to attempt to bridge the gap in coverage around East Cleveland, said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. But those ISPs turned down the opportunity, he said, so the state is partnering with nonprofits and other agencies.

“This is an issue that unites rural and urban Ohio, because it’s an access issue,” Husted said. “It’s an access issue to the modern economy, education, healthcare system, the modern world.”

East Cleveland, the pilot location for what is intended to eventually be a statewide program, has one of the worst internet connectivity rates in the country, said Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish.

“It’s no coincidence that East Cleveland is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country,” Budish said. “We want to change that. We are changing that through this project, among other things, today.”

Other project partners, including GE Lighting and University Hospitals, have reached out to offer space for additional towers. More towers will expand the coverage area, as well as allow more families to join.

Reliable, affordable high-speed internet access will give East Cleveland residents access to the entire world, said Mayor Brandon King.

“It will allow our residents to be better educated, better informed, and ultimately, better prepared for life in the 21st century and beyond,” King said.

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream.