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Project Empower: Cleveland’s Innovative Approach to Bridging the Digital Divide

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Submitted on October 28, 2021

Wednesday, October 28, 2021

Digital Beat

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland suffers from the highest rates of child poverty and the lowest rates of broadband access among the large cities in the United States. Faced with that reality, a Cleveland-based nonprofit, DigitalC, dedicated itself to bringing digital equity to the community’s residents by forming partnerships to (1) increase the availability of affordable high-speed internet service, (2) offer digital training and devices, and (3) provide inclusive shared space for community engagement and innovation.

Cleveland, OhioThrough an innovative technology approach, DigitalC delivers broadband service to residents across the city. Depending on local topography, tree coverage, access to vertical infrastructure, and other factors affecting wireless signal strength, DigitalC designs and deploys customized fixed-wireless network solutions leveraging existing infrastructure. With National Science Foundation (NSF) and Project OVERCOME support, DigitalC will serve 225 new households by deploying millimeter wave (mmWave) technology with wireless equipment from Siklu installed on rooftops to create a mesh network.

Deploying new infrastructure—and leveraging existing infrastructure—to provide affordable and reliable broadband is the foundation of an approach to bridge the digital divide, but the connection to the internet is not enough on its own. DigitalC recognizes the importance of offering residents access to digital training and internet-connected devices. In addition to establishing connectivity through a multitiered technology approach, the organization collaborates with trusted community partners to provide technical assistance and support for devices.

Thanks to a team of highly experienced and mission-driven individuals in technology, innovation, fundraising, advocacy, community engagement, marketing, sales, and customer care, DigitalC nurtures valuable relationships with local organizations and leaders in city government. The team works to create a better Cleveland and welcomes the opportunity to share its successes and challenges to help communities across the nation bridge the digital divide.

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US Ignite is accelerating the smart community movement – and creating value for an entire ecosystem – by guiding communities into the connected future, creating a path for private sector growth, and advancing technology research that’s at the heart of smart city development. Project OVERCOME is delivering broadband services to the underserved and unserved populations in seven communities. The project is led by US Ignite with financial support from the National Science Foundation and Schmidt Futures.