Cleveland’s Central neighborhood residents getting ‘surge’ of internet access

CLEVELAND, OH – Residents of Cleveland’s Central neighborhood can start accessing high-speed internet this month, as part of an initiative to increase broadband services in Cuyahoga County.

Phase one of the “Central Neighborhood Surge” began over the weekend, connecting 300 households. Another 200 households will be brought online in April.

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

Those who sign up for a Cleveland Public Library card can also receive internet at no cost through June 30, provided they are not receiving any other internet subsidies.

“Having access to affordable, high-speed internet can change the lives of our residents,” County Executive Armond Budish said in a news release on Tuesday. “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.”

Budish first announced plans for the pilot “Neighborhood Surge” program in May, pledging to focus funding in some of the county’s poorest communities – starting with the Central neighborhood – to help residents there thrive. Internet connectivity was one of the goals in a larger list of support systems, which also included job creation, financial literacy, development, improved roads, and planting more trees.

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

The broadband project is being funded through a partnership between the county, library, and DigitalC, a nonprofit organization whose wireless internet service provider, EmpowerCLE+, has already been serving 55 customers in the Central neighborhood since 2020. It connects another 1,100 customers in the Clark-Fulton, Fairfax, Glenville, Hough and Woodhill-Buckeye neighborhoods.

The county and library each invested $330,000. DigitalC is funding the remaining cost.

In addition to internet access, the program also offers modems and other wireless equipment, some devices, and digital literacy training.

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

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