CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Clinic, the technology-focused nonprofit DigitalC and two local businesses announced Thursday that they will help provide affordable high-speed internet to residents of Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood.
TransDigm Group Inc. and The Lubrizol Foundation are also part of the effort to increase internet access in the neighborhood, which is home to the Clinic’s main campus. Discounted broadband internet will be offered to all households within the Fairfax community and will be available sometime in early 2021, said Dr. Adam Myers, the director of Cleveland Clinic Community Care.
While the partners did not specify how much each household could pay for access, DigitalC recently worked with MetroHealth, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and other community partners to provide internet for $18 per month.
The effort is intended to address the technology gap within the city of Cleveland, which a recent survey identified as the worst-connected large city in the U.S. More than 30% of Cleveland households had no broadband access in 2019, while nearly 46% had no wired connection, according to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
Myers said broadband internet access is among the social determinants of health, or the social and economic conditions that influence individual and community health. Studies have shown social determinants drive roughly 80% of health outcomes, so addressing those issues is critical, he said.
“We’re not satisfied just impacting 20% of health outcomes. It’s just not enough,” he said. “We’re moving outside of our walls to partner with others to strengthen our communities, mitigate the social determinants of health and create better health equity.”
Myers said the Clinic was focused on improving internet access in the community even before the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the issue. The state of Ohio offered $50 million in grants to improve internet connectivity because many students were forced to begin the school year taking virtual classes at home.
The virus also created internet needs among the workplace, with many employees moving to a work-from-home model. Tens of thousands more Ohio workers were furloughed or lost jobs, and they needed internet to search for a new job and apply for unemployment.
Health care was affected, too, with many appointments being moved to telehealth.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further illuminated the crucial role internet access plays in the overall health and well-being a population, and it is critical that we work to overcome digital inequities,” Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic said in the news release.
DigitalC, which focuses on improving digital equity, will offer low-cost broadband access through its EmpowerCLE internet service. DigitalC launched the service in the 2019 in the Fairfax neighborhood, the nonprofit’s CEO Dorothy Baunach said in a statement. It’s now also available in the Clark-Fulton, Glenville, Woodland Hills and Hough neighborhoods.
“This partnership and these generous donations will take us one step closer to ensuring all Fairfax residents and families have a choice for affordable, high speed Internet to their home, giving them equitable access to education, health care, keeping in touch with family and friends, and economic well-being,” Baunach said in a statement.
EmpowerCLE installed equipment on the rooftops of two Clinic buildings to expand coverage in the Fairfax neighborhood. EmpowerCLE technicians will visit local households to offer a connection and install the service, the news release says.
The Clinic, TransDigm and The Lubrizol Foundation are providing donations to reduce monthly subscriptions fees and subsidize the cost of equipment. The partners did not disclose how much money they donated for the effort.
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