Cleveland, Ohio – The Seat of Cuyahoga County 

On January 15, 2021, Next Century Cities submitted a response to Cuyahoga County’s request for information (RFI). Since social distancing precautions related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began, counties, towns, and cities across the country are increasingly aware of the importance of improving broadband access for all residents. 

In a press release announcing the RFI, County Executive Armond Budish said

Sadly, Cuyahoga County is one of the worst connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households not having any type of internet service. While we’ve been working to lessen the digital divide through partnerships with the Cleveland Foundation and PCs for People—we provided broadband access to over 3,000 homes through this initiative—this RFI allows us to work toward a more long-term solution that can reach more people and provide easier access for those who need it.

Though the pandemic exacerbated the need for broadband solutions, the RFI seeks opportunities for long-term improvements, continuing a movement that started when County officials began investigating the problem long before the pandemic started. In 2017, the County released a strategic plan which highlighted the importance of broadband access and its direct relation to improving economic opportunities for residents. Then, in 2019, Cuyahoga County’s Office of Innovation and Performance partnered with Connected Insights to develop a report discussing connectivity in Cuyahoga County and offering examples of digital inclusion initiatives that could help. 

Counties across the country like Cuyahoga County recognize the importance of broadband connectivity in revitalizing local economies and developing resilient, informed communities. NCC public comments provide additional considerations to inform Cuyahoga County’s RFP process and offer examples of the locally-centered partnerships that have reduced digital disparities and increased service options available to residents. At a time when local officials are facing persistent connectivity challenges in their communities, strategic partnerships are becoming key to expanding connectivity for all residents.