Cleveland Foundation announces initial funding to reduce Cleveland’s digital divide

Initiative will provide for free library internet hotspot lending programs; PCs for People also expanding to Cleveland to provide low-cost computers, support and repair services

Release Date: 10.9.2018

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Foundation board of directors today announced $488,000 in grants that encourage digital inclusion in Cuyahoga County. The initiative will establish free library hotspot lending programs and a PCs for People location in Cleveland, while providing education, advocacy and awareness support to residents to engage with technology. Recognizing the importance of ensuring all members of the community have equitable access to the digital future, Huntington National Bank is contributing an additional $50,000 to the effort.

The multifaceted strategy has several components, including:

  • Deploying 600 4G unlimited data hotspot devices throughout all 28 Cleveland Public Library locations and 300 additional hotspots at four Cuyahoga County Public Library branches (Garfield Heights, Warrensville Heights, Maple Heights, Southeast/Bedford Heights); the devices will be free to check-out and available for 21-day lending periods with no charge for connectivity
  • Bringing PCs for People to Cleveland; currently located in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Denver, the organization allows residents below 200 percent of the poverty level (currently $24,280 for an individual) or currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program to purchase refurbished computers, in addition to providing flat-fee tech support and repair services
  • Supporting Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and CHN Housing Partners to provide marketing, education, advocacy and awareness around the overall initiative

The plan was informed by 2017 studies on digital access and literacy, and broadband adoption and persistence, both of which were funded by the foundation. The studies identified target areas for digital inclusion services – deemed “Digital Equity High Need Areas” (DEHNAs) – in which residents are living at or below 200 percent of the poverty threshold and less than 40 percent of households have internet connectivity of 10 mbps or greater (PDF of map).

“The studies clearly pointed to the fact that there hadn’t been a concerted, unified effort to address digital inclusion in Cleveland,” said Leon Wilson, Chief of Digital Innovation & Chief Information Officer, Cleveland Foundation. “By utilizing trusted anchor institutions already embedded in our neighborhoods and layering on a nationally-recognized organization such as PCs for People, we hope to address affordability and accessibility in a manner that’s equitable and inclusive for those residents most in need.”

These DEHNAs conservatively include 20 percent of Greater Cleveland households, including 50 percent of the residents serviced by CMHA. They encompass most neighborhoods on the east side of Cleveland and Clark-Fulton and Cudell on the west side, along with the inner-ring suburbs of Garfield Heights, Warrensville Heights, Maple Heights and Bedford Heights. (See attached map showing Cuyahoga County residents with fixed broadband connections of greater than 10 megabytes per second download speeds.)

The hotspot lending programs are underway at all Cleveland Public Library locations and the four Cuyahoga County Public Library branches mentioned above. As with any other item, a valid library card is all that is needed for checkout. There is no charge for the 4G service.

In addition, PCs for People’s temporary Cleveland store opened today and is located at 6114 Francis Ave., Cleveland, OH 44127 (across the street from Elizabeth Baptist Church). Work is underway on a permanent location at E. 31st & St. Clair Ave., with an expected opening early in 2019. The store will stock refurbished desktop and laptop computers varying in cost, while a limited number of free computers will be available each day. PCs for People will also provide unlimited 4G LTE mobile internet hotspots with data plans priced at $10 per month with an annual contract and $15 for a month-by-month contract.

To purchase internet or obtain computers, low income individuals should bring proof of eligibility and a photo ID. Examples of documents accepted as proof of eligibility can be found at

To learn more about how this announcement meshes with the Cleveland Foundation’s Digital Excellence Initiative, visit

Quotes from Partners

Kate Carden, Assistant Director of Community Resources, CHN Housing Partners:

“Access to technology is no longer a luxury. We are thrilled to work with the Cleveland Foundation and other partners to provide this critical resource to Clevelanders in our effort to build more equitable communities.”

Felton Thomas Jr., Executive Director, Cleveland Public Library:

“Supporting digital literacy and equitable access to technology is an important part of Cleveland Public Library’s mission, and we’re honored to join the Cleveland Foundation, Huntington National Bank, and other partner institutions to help offer this hotspot lending program. By making hotspot devices available at all 28 Cleveland Public Library locations, we’ll have the capacity to reach a wide range of residents in need of internet access and related support. We applaud this initiative for its potential in helping Clevelanders gain new skills, enrich their personal and professional lives, and connect with the larger world.”

Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive, Cuyahoga County: “The digital divide that this County continues to suffer from is of great concern to me. Tackling the problem in this collaborative fashion is really the only way we are going to get results on one of our most long-standing issues. I appreciate the work that all these partners have done to get our residents access to the internet so that they can learn and apply for jobs and training to improve their lives.”

Sari Feldman, Executive Director, Cuyahoga County Public Library:

“Improving access to a high-speed Internet connection in the home opens opportunity for people whose online needs don’t necessarily begin and end with the open hours of their nearest public library. We are grateful to the Cleveland Foundation for supporting digital inclusion through a hotspot lending program. People cannot successfully apply for a job, complete online homework assignments or stay connected to family if they don’t have access to technology and a level of proficiency in using it. We believe the Cleveland Foundation’s approach to partnering with Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library and CMHA will help advance our region’s efforts in digital inclusion.”

Jeffery K. Patterson, Chief Executive Officer, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority:

“CMHA is proud to collaborate with the Cleveland Foundation on this outstanding initiative to provide programming and support to bridge the digital divide. Our goal is to make sure that every resident has an opportunity to connect to the internet and to provide continued training and support.”

“Connecting the unconnected is one of our most important initiatives in public housing. Residents and families with limited incomes are one of the largest groups within CMHA and the nation who are digitally unconnected.”

Sean Richardson, Regional President, Greater Cleveland Region of Huntington Bank:

“Huntington is proud to partner on this initiative with the Cleveland Foundation, County Executive Armond Budish, the Cleveland Public Library, the County Library System as well as the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and CHN Partners. We have committed $50,000 to establish free library hotspot lending programs and a PCs for People location in Cleveland.”

“Everyone today needs access to technology.  We see that at Huntington, as more banking services are provided online, and in all facets of our lives.  Access is, quite simply, an important economic development tool. It improves the lives of individuals and enables the advancement of our Greater Cleveland community.”

Casey Sorensen, Chief Executive Officer, PCs for People:

“PCs for People is proud to be part of the Cleveland Foundation’s grant coalition and eager to join the digital inclusion community in Cleveland. Our innovative model will help low-income Cleveland residents to receive a computer, internet, and support while also providing an opportunity for the city’s businesses to responsibly and securely retire their IT assets. We look forward to partnering with local nonprofits and governmental organizations to help bridge the digital divide while ensuring that the people in the greatest need are impacted across Cleveland.”