The University Technology ([U]Tech) team at Case Western Reserve University is helping bridge the digital divide in East Cleveland through a public-private partnership aiming to extend affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to as many as 2,000 low-income households.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, along with other dignitaries, visited the city earlier this month to announce the project, which is focused on providing a $650,000 broadband expansion in East Cleveland, one of the poorest and least connected cities in the nation.

The partnership, prompted by BroadbandOhio, includes Case Western Reserve, Connect, Cuyahoga County, Eaton Corporation, East Cleveland City Schools, GE Lighting-a Savant company, Greater Cleveland Partnership, InnovateOhio, Microsoft, OARnet, PCs for People, University Hospitals and the Urban League of Cleveland. 

PCs for People will serve as the internet provider, and distribute antennas and modems for residents to have in their homes. Case Western Reserve, Connect, East Cleveland City Schools, OARnet and University Hospitals will assist with the technical infrastructure. 

“This is a great example of how [U]Tech’s strong presence in the region and strength in network engineering provide a very valuable benefit to the local community,” said Roger Bielefeld, assistant vice president of Research Computing and Infrastructure Services. 

From [U]Tech, Director of Network Engineering and Unified Communications Dan Matthews, Project Director Dennis Risen and Network Engineer Kevin Chan helped facilitate a fiber-optic (broadband) connection between the OARnet network equipment in Cedar Avenue Service Center and University Hospitals Lakeside Building—ultimately providing access to buildings where infrastructure necessary for the project is placed. UH will extend the link to an antenna on the roof of Lerner Tower, permitting communication with a similar antenna at Shaw High School in East Cleveland. These efforts will increase service to the areas of the pilot program.

“For this project, CWRU and [U]Tech played a technically minor, yet logistically critical, role in bridging the gap between OARnet and University Hospitals,” said Matthews, project organizer and point person on behalf of [U]Tech. “We have a great relationship and history with both organizations and in this case, we were able to literally bring them together on behalf of PCs for People and for the benefit of the community of East Cleveland.” 

The project will connect more than 1,000 households in its first phase, with plans to scale up access to 2,000 households. East Cleveland households will pay $15 a month for internet speeds of 50 Mbps for download and 10 Mpbs for upload (twice the minimum federal definition of high-speed internet). Priority will be given to families with children in the public school system.