DigitalC's pilot program, Connect the Unconnected, in partnership with Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority supports 140 households by bringing them online, providing devices for each household, and providing digital literacy and job training.
In Cleveland, more than a 1/3 of the city's residents do not have access to the Internet in any form, and as many as 1/2 the city's residents have no fixed wired home internet access.
"High speed, affordable broadband access is so important to everyone living in public housing," shares Jeffery Patterson, Executive Director of CMHA. "Once you have it, you realize how essential it is to your day to day activities. Our partnership with DigitalC and the coalition of technology partners they have assembled is just the beginning of our digital efforts. Our goal is to make sure that every resident has an opportunity to have access to, as well as learn how to navigate through the internet and to provide ongoing support."
Bringing residents online
Along with Mr. Patterson and his colleagues in CMHA, DigitalC held community forums and focus groups on how Internet access can address the highest priorities of residents including being able to apply for a job online, checking their medical records, keeping in touch with family, and feeling secure in their apartments.
The first step was to bring high speed wireless connection to the buildings and to each apartment.
"We believe in DigitalC's mission to catalyze the use of technology for community impact," said Izik Kirshenbaum of Siklu. "We provide the world's leading gigabit wireless solution. We are very excited to learn how our millimeter wave wireless solution is applied to impact the lives of the residents in Cleveland's public housing community."
Next, DigitalC partnered with Actelis, a Sunnyvale telecommunications leader, to bring high speed bandwidth on existing copper wires. "We believe that it is critical to leverage the existing copper wiring in the more than 90% of American's built environment to provide a reliable high speed broadband solution. We are very pleased that Clevelanders living in public housing will have the fastest symmetrical Internet access in the city," said Tuvia Barlev, CEO of Actelis Networks.
Finally, DigitalC partnered with RET3, a local refurbishing provider to bring wireless routers and computers to each resident. Ken Kovatch, Director of RET3 said, "Internet access without a reliable computer is like having a great interstate highway but no car to get you on the highway. RET3 works with Cleveland's businesses to securely recycle e-waste including computers and notebooks. We believe in DigitalC's vision of working across the community to provide those at-risk with the tools to advance their lives and join the digital economy."
Once the broadband is in place, the training begins with the ReStart Program, teaching residents basic to intermediate skills in software and hardware.
A collaboration that works
DigitalC is the catalyst in bringing together over 30 organizations to make this program happen.
In a lead-in to a feature story on "Connecting the Unconnected" in the MIT Technology Review editor Jason Pontin lauded the Cleveland pilot as an exemplar of a community collaboration to address this structural problem:
"Happily, a nonprofit named DigitalC plans to extend a fiber-optic network that connects Cleveland's hospitals...using a millimeter-wave transmission system from a company called Siklu. The plan would bring gigabyte-per-second connections to the city's public housing...and would make broadband practical for most tenants in the projects."
Click here to see our director of programs, Liz Forester and the CEO of CMHA, Jeffrey Patterson discus the partnership of our organizations in the creation of this program with Ideastream.