Speed at last: the importance of low-cost internet to Fairfax

As of June 2019, there are nearly 4.388 billion internet users all across the world, accounting for more than 57% of the population. But residents of Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood can attest that internet access is not always an advantage. Poor internet connections have hurt residents’ everyday lives in their job searches and education.

“The fact that the Fairfax neighborhood has not had access to reliable, affordable internet service has affected residents’ ability to access employment as well as other opportunities taken for granted in other neighborhoods in Cuyahoga County,” says Denise VanLeer, executive director of the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation.

Students’ ability to complete homework assignments, use the internet for research, or finish school-related projects has been compromised, she says. Many residents cannot make a doctor’s appointment without encountering connection issues.

VanLeer says slow internet hurt the daughter of one of her former board members. Due to 40-year-old telephone lines, their internet service lacked the speed to allow for peak efficiency. “FRDC residents have been told in the past that internet providers do not consider neighborhoods like Fairfax a good investment,” VanLeer says.

In 2017, the story broke that AT&T had allegedly discriminated against low-income neighborhoods in Cleveland. Despite Fairfax Renaissance’s advocacy for internet services in the area for many years, as well as Fairfax’s own neighborhood technology center, slow internet and its consequences continued to plague the community.

A new antenna on the roof of the Juvenile Justice Center is expected to bring affordable internet to Fairfax residents.With such an unwillingness from internet providers to aid with any possible present or future solutions, local nonprofit organization DigitalC created its own solution by adding an antenna to the roof of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court building. This came as part of its ongoing mission to provide “affordable, reliable, and sustainable fixed wireless broadband to underserved communities” such as Fairfax. Residents are understandably excited to have a more reliable internet connection.

“The empowerCLE+ Program definitely helps to level the playing field and helps ensure that existing residents and new residents will have access to reliable internet services,” says VanLeer.

FreshWater Cleveland made multiple attempts to contact DigitalC but did not receive a response.