Surging Central: Many neighborhood residents will now have access to fast, affordable internet

Affordable, high-speed internet service is rolling out this month in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood as part of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s Central Neighborhood Surge plan, announced last May, to expand wireless internet access to approximately 70% of  Central and provide Internet equipment to 500 of 2,500 households.

Armond BudishThe Central Surge is 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 (CPL), and DigitalC, a local non-profit focused on making Cleveland’s digital future equitable.

Phase one of the rollout began last Saturday, Jan. 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.

CPL received approximately $330,000 in funding from the FCC 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.

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 Budish is a statement. “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.

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

“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.”