County Proposes ARPA Funding to Provide Broadband Services Throughout the County

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Contract Would Provide Low-Cost, High-Speed Internet Access to Roughly 25,000 Residents, or 85% of Unconnected Households

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH – Cuyahoga County is proposing to enter into a $20 million contract with local nonprofit PCs for People to provide in-home, high-speed internet access to roughly 25,000 Cuyahoga County residents in many of the County’s least connected communities. This item will be introduced to Cuyahoga County Council for consideration at their Tuesday, April 26th meeting.

Based on responses from a Request for Proposals (RFP) released in July of 2021, Cuyahoga County proposes to contract with PCS for People to build a fixed wireless network that can support approximately 20,000 suburban households across 77 census tracts where more than 20% of the population is unconnected and the average income is below the County’s Area Median Income. In addition, a wired approach would be used in multi-dwelling units like housing authority complexes and privately-owned apartments. This would add up to 5,000 households for a total network capacity of 25,000. The County is focusing on broadband in unconnected suburban communities as a part of the region’s long-term strategy for digital inclusion.

“Cuyahoga County is one of the worst connected areas in the entire country. We saw that get worse during the COVID pandemic. We partnered with a host of community organizations to provide computers and internet to residents,” said County Executive Armond Budish. “But our previous work has been a short-term solution to a long-term problem. With this contract with PCs for People, we have the potential to provide internet access to 85 percent of unconnected households. This can change us from being one of the least connected counties in the country, to having systems in place that others later use as a prototype.”

The cost of the service for a resident would be $15 a month. But those residents who qualify for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, can have the cost of service fully covered through ACP’s $30 a month subsidy. Additionally PCs for People has the ability to provide residents with a free or low-cost computer. Families that qualify for ACP can receive a $100 subsidy toward a computer.

“Access to the internet and a home computer has become an essential tool in today’s world,” said PCs for People Chief Innovation Officer Bryan Mauk. “Without it, these residents are cut off from employment opportunities, education, healthcare, social connection, and so much more. Our ultimate goal is digital equity; a world in which everyone has the technological capacity to participate fully in our democracy, economy, and society. We are looking forward to this collaboration with the County and many others to further our mission of bridging the digital divide in our community.”

The contract would be a phased approach for coverage based on where equipment is already in place, or PCs for People has agreements in place to use buildings for towers and equipment.

In addition to connecting residents to the internet, this initiative would also work with the County’s Division of Senior and Adults Services, which will offer training programs for residents to help them get acclimated with resources available through the internet.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how essential internet has become in our daily lives,” said County Chief Innovation & Performance Officer Catherine Tkachyk. “This contract will provide residents in our least connected communities an affordable option for high-quality internet service.”

To learn more about the County’s work helping residents get connected, listen to the County’s newest episode of the “Let’s Talk Cuyahoga Podcast,” anywhere podcasts can be found.