BROOKLYN, Ohio — Like many buildings, the Brooklyn Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library sat empty during the pandemic, but its parking lot often was not, as people looked to tap into the free WiFi coming out of the building.
"When schools sent the kids home and said go online for your assignments, there were a lot of kids who couldn't go online," said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish."They ended up in library parking lots or other places like that."
Cuyahoga County, he said, is one of the worst connected areas in the country. That's why it was fitting that county and state leaders chose this library parking lot to unveil a nearly $20 million project to provide high-speed internet access to roughly 25,000 Cuyahoga County households.
"This isn't just an infrastructure issue, it's also an affordability issue," said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. "And we're going to check both of those boxes today with this announcement."
The project will provide internet to these communities at a cost of $15 a month, and in some cases for free.
“The funding will mean that more residents in Cuyahoga County will soon be able to connect online with essential services including health care providers, employment services, and educational institutions,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “We are committed to closing the digital divide, whether due to lack of access or affordability, so that these critical services are available to all Ohioans.”
Ralph Miller, a disabled veteran who had to drop his internet access because he could no longer afford it, is now one of the first to benefit.
"I'm excited for myself but I'm also excited for everybody else in Cuyahoga County that can experience this eventually later on down the road as it goes," Miller said.
Budish said the program will be rolled out in phases.
“Our first phase of connection will include Brooklyn, Bedford, East Cleveland, Parma, Warrensville Heights and five neighborhoods in the city of Cleveland, all of which should be connected by January of 2023. The rest of the suburbs will be connected by June 2024," said Budish.
If you live in one of the areas, you'll soon be learning more.
"Part of the funding that we're providing is for getting the message out, getting the word out that this is out there and available for people and hopefully this will be easy," he said.