MetroHealth, DigitalC, CMHA and Dollar Bank Address the Digital Divide

CLEVELAND – A public-private partnership aimed at bringing digital equity to Cleveland has reached a significant milestone ahead of schedule: Connecting 1,000 households and approximately 2,200 Cleveland residents to low-cost, reliable broadband in MetroHealth’s footprint.

The four partners – MetroHealth, DigitalC, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Dollar Bank – will celebrate this accomplishment at an event Wednesday, December 14, at CMHA’s Scranton Castle senior apartment complex, one of the buildings connected under this partnership. In addition to low-cost internet access, this “Digital Connectivity Initiative” also provided residents with digital skills training to navigate the digital landscape.

“We have reached this milestone ahead of the goal we set for ourselves. We are grateful for our partners, DigitalC, CMHA and Dollar Bank, who have joined MetroHealth’s Institute for H.O.P.E.TM in this effort,” said Susan Fuehrer, President of Institute for H.O.P.E.TM “We live in a time when technology creates opportunity and makes more possible. Now we must ensure that those opportunities and possibilities are open to everyone.”

Launched in response to a 2019 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census that identified Cleveland as the worst-connected big city in the nation, the initiative set out to connect 1,000 households in neighborhoods directly served by MetroHealth by 2024. The health system recognized that internet connectivity is necessary for essential functions like communicating with health care providers, connecting with social support services, and completing job applications and put the initiative under its then-newly formed Institute for H.O.P.E.TM

With a gift of $600,000 from Dollar Bank, MetroHealth partnered with DigitalC, a Cleveland nonprofit committed to digitally empowering communities through subsidized fixed wireless internet service and social innovation. In August 2020, DigitalC’s EmpowerCLE+ designated wireless internet service provider began connecting residents of Scranton Castle. Riverview Tower on West 25th Street followed.

“We’re glad to be a key partner in helping to bridge the digital divide in our community,’’ said DigitalC Chief Executive Officer Joshua Edmonds. “It’s public-private partnerships like this one that will help bring opportunity and innovation to those most in need.”

These partners will continue to work together, and their effort will expand under a new $900,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting the Connected Care Cleveland initiative. The grant will allow DigitalC to expand its services – affordable internet, digital skills training, and laptop distribution – to six more CMHA properties:

  • Doris V. Jones, 4609 Rocky River Drive
  • Miles Pointe, 11806 Miles Ave.
  • Phoenix Village, 6001 Woodland Ave.
  • King Kennedy South, 6001 Woodland Ave.
  • Lakeview Terrace, 1332 W. 28th Street
  • Ambleside, 2190 Ambleside Drive
“The significance of this milestone cannot be overstated: It represents the youth, adults and senior citizen residents of CMHA that now can become more connected and engaged members of our community by having greater accessibility to technology,” said Jeffery K. Patterson, Chief Executive Office of CMHA.

Scranton Castle resident Chuck Davenport said access to the internet and learning how to use the new laptop he received through the Digital Connectivity Initiative is helping him make positive changes in his life.

“I want to go for a better job, and I need computer classes to upgrade my skills a little bit, and they’ve been tremendous in helping me with that,” he said. “Before, I didn’t know a whole lot beyond turning the computer on and off. But now I can send or receive email, things like that. I created a nice resume, and I’ve been using it to apply for some jobs. This resume and some of the other work I’ve been doing, I’m fairly confident it’s a life changer.”

Marge Corfias, who lives in Riverview Tower, is a lifelong learner and loves discovering new things online. With WiFi in her apartment, she can do all the research she wants.

“I’m a curious person – I’ll hear something on the radio, or I’ll read something, or I don’t know what a certain word is – and I will pick up my phone and look it up,” she said. “I was always worrying about going over (the plan’s maximum allowance for) data. I don’t have to worry about that now with WiFi. It has opened up a whole new world for me. I’m very, very grateful.”

Speakers at the December 14 celebration will include Nabil Chehade, MD, Executive Vice President, Chief Population and Digital Health Officer, MetroHealth; Edmonds of Digital C; Patterson of CMHA and Morton D. Stanfield, Senior Vice President of Community Development of Dollar Bank.

“As we enter our third year of support for this program, we are delighted to see and hear the firsthand accounts of the people this initiative has helped,” Stanfield said. “Dollar Bank continues to be intentional in our commitment to invest in our local neighborhoods to enhance the quality of life and support the economic development of our communities. We know that in today’s world, digital connectivity is essential to supporting education, jobs and economic growth and look forward to this program’s continued success.”

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