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DigitalC receives grant to expand internet service




CMSD partner DigitalC will expand internet service in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood with a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The NSF and the independent nonprofit US Ignite, with support from Schmidt Futures, have awarded DigitalC and six other organizations a combined $2.7 million in grants. The grants are part of Project OVERCOME, an initiative to boost internet connectivity in underserved communities. 

DigitalC, a nonprofit, will use its share of $300,000 to provide affordable, high-speed internet to 277 households in CMHA’s Lexington Village apartment complex.  

“As a nation, we can and must do better to give everyone an opportunity to access the tools, knowledge and capabilities that internet access enables,” Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation, said during a video announcement. 

DigitalC  began to help bridge Cleveland’s digital divide in 2015 by connecting households to affordable high-speed internet through its empowerCLE+ service. 

CMSD teamed up with DigitalC last year to ensure all students had access to reliable high-speed internet access after Gov. Mike DeWine closed school buildings statewide to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  

The District is paying to connect District families to the empowerCLE+ broadband service and will cover monthly fees as long as at least one CMSD student lives in the home. The school system also makes sure that every student has a device suitable for remote learning.

CMSD is helping DigitalC to expand coverage by letting the nonprofit install antenna equipment on buildings throughout the city. The Board of Education recently approved leasing space atop 12 buildings at $10 a year per building for 20 years.

Dorothy Baunach, Digital C’s chief executive said the expansion is another step toward lifting Cleveland from its ranking as the worst connected large city in America.  

"This will open pathways to improve our neighbors’ education, health and economic well being,” she said. 

She said closing the divide will take more than broadband and connectivity. DigitalC encourages community partners to help by providing devices and digital literacy training.