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Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted help launch broadband expansion project in East Cleveland

The pair helped host an event Wednesday at Mayfair Elementary School, along with various local leaders.

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted were in East Cleveland Wednesday to outline a new broadband expansion project for the area.

The plan has been developed through a partnership of private businesses and the state-run BroadbandOhio, the latter of which DeWine's administration announced more than a year ago as part of an effort to bolster high-speed internet services. 

In a press conference Wednesday at Mayfair Elementary School, Gov. DeWine outlined the project, which started back in December 2020, and will initially serve 1,000 families in East Cleveland.

“East Cleveland, like many other urban and rural communities, has lacked both the infrastructure and access to low-cost broadband for many residents. This new project plans to provide both the infrastructure and access for up to 2,000 families,” said Governor DeWine. “All of the partners in the public-private partnership have come together to bring access to high-speed internet for families throughout East Cleveland.”

As of Wednesday, the broadband internet will be available immediately for 1,000 East Cleveland families at the price of $15 per month for internet speeds of 50 Mbps for download and 10 Mpbs for upload (twice the minimum federal definition of high-speed internet). Those involved hope to expand the access to more families in the coming months. Those who are interested in the service can sign up here

The broad public-private partnership, spurred by BroadbandOhio, includes Case Western Reserve University, 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. 

The pilot program includes $650,000 in financial investments from BroadbandOhio, Cuyahoga County, Eaton Corporation, GE Lighting- a Savant companyGreater Cleveland Partnership, InnovateOhio, Microsoft, and PCs for People. Additional investments will be forthcoming.

“This initiative is a perfect example of state and local government, the business community and nonprofits all working together for residents to further bridge the digital divide in Cuyahoga County,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish at Wednesday's press conference. “Access to the internet is a necessity, and this effort is critical to our ongoing work to get as many residents as possible connected in a fair and equitable manner.”

“We are excited to be involved in providing low cost, high-speed internet to the East Cleveland community,” said Dr. Henry Pettiegrew, Chief Executive and Superintendent at East Cleveland City Schools on Wednesday. “Through this initiative, we are making progress to eliminate the digital divide for our families and community.”

In March 2020, DeWine said there were more than 300,000 Ohio households without broadband access. That's when BroadbandOhio was created.

"We have too many Ohioans in urban areas, too many Ohioans in rural areas, who simply do not have access to the internet, who do not have the broadband," Gov. DeWine said Wednesday. "And their families suffer, their children suffer. And the truth is, in the world we live in today, in 2021, if you cannot access that, you cannot fully participate in society today."

The first antenna tower has been activated on the roof of Mayfair Elementary School. Additional tower sites will go live over the course of the coming months to increase service to the areas of the pilot program.

Wednesday's event marked a departure from DeWine's usual COVID-19-related press conferences, including one last month at an East Cleveland vaccination clinic. Husted has also been in the news lately after a tweet referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan Virus," a remark that drew sharp criticism from Ohio's Asian American community.

RELATED: Upper Arlington Asian community members say Husted will meet with them about 'Wuhan Virus' tweet

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King, East Cleveland Superintendent Dr. Henry Pettiegrew, Urban League of Greater Cleveland President Marsha Mockabee, and PCs for People CIO Bryan Mauk also made appearances at Wednesday's event. You can watch the entire press conference in the player below.

RELATED: 'Big burden' for schools trying to give kids internet access

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