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Myers Foundation, Mandel Foundation donate $20 million to help close Cleveland's digital divide

The donation, made to nonprofit DigitalC, will expand broadband service to 34 neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: The video in the player above is from a story published on Oct. 22, 2020.

On Tuesday, representatives for the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Supporting Foundation and the David and Inez Myers Foundation announced a combined $20 million donation to close Cleveland's "digital divide." 

Officials for the organizations announced that the major donation would be provided to DigitalC, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit devoted to making the internet accessible to all of Greater Cleveland. 

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The Mandel Foundation committed $15 million to assist in the development of DigitalC's mission and business systems, while the organizations added another $5 million together to offer wraparound services to the Northeast Ohio area through DigitalC. 

“With this investment of private dollars, DigitalC will have the unequaled organizational capacity to expand and deliver high-speed, high-quality, reliable and affordable broadband to unserved and underserved Clevelanders and to facilitate its use to meet the needs of city residents,” said Steve Hoffman, chairman of the Mandel Foundation. “Together, our two organizations have thoroughly studied DigitalC, and our due diligence clearly shows that the comprehensive, economical and innovative approach the nonprofit offers is the best plan to provide equitable broadband access in Greater Cleveland. We call on public partners at all levels to fund the capital and equipment costs that DigitalC is ready to use to build out this future-forward technology network with coverage for 130,000 households within the next three years.”

The donation will allow DigitalC to expand coverage to 34 neighborhoods and provide wireless internet services to an additional estimated 1,000 households in the area. 

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“We’re very grateful to the Mandel and Myers foundations for validating our technology and model as the optimum solution, and for their commitment to support long-overdue, sustainable and scalable access that creates true equity across our community,” said DigitalC CEO Dorothy Baunach. “Through our work on the ground the last few years, we’ve built out and proven a wireless technology solution to deliver on our purpose – for today and tomorrow.”  

According to data released by the American Community Survey, done by the U.S. Census, Cleveland has the highest percentage of households without broadband internet connection out of every city in U.S. with 100,000 or more households. 

“Closing the digital divide is a top priority for Cuyahoga County,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “Our work with DigitalC has been critical to getting Fairfax residents access to the internet, and we’re currently working on getting residents connected in the Central neighborhood. This is a collaborative effort, and I am thankful for the generous philanthropic support of the Mandel Foundation and Myers Foundation. Their support will allow County contributions to go even farther, as we continue our work to connect residents.”