Columbus: City Allocates $15 Million to Expand Access to Digital Resources
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~ Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady have announced a joint commitment of $20.2 million to Smart Columbus on behalf of the Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition. This important funding will help to reduce the digital divide in the community, providing under-resourced residents with access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet and digital resources.

The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to affordable, reliable internet, devices, and digital skills and those who do not. According to the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau's American Communities Survey, in Franklin County over 80,000 households (10%), representing over 200,000 people do not have a home Internet subscription and over 66,000 households (5%) do not have a computer. Additionally, one-third of working-age Americans possess limited or no digital skills and one in six are unable to use email, web search or other basic online tools according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mayor Ginther commented on the importance of this initiative: "Having reliable internet is as crucial as having access to clean water and electricity. Every resident deserves to have full access to affordable, high-speed internet as well as the digital devices that bring these services directly into the home or the palm of your hand – regardless of one's ability to pay."

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Legislation before Columbus City Council will authorize $15 million of the city's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding while Franklin County will contribute $5.2 million towards this initiative. The funds will be used for increasing access to affordable, reliable home internet among underserved households by at least 50 percent; distributing 10,000 computers, tablets, smartphones or other internet-enabled devices; deploying decentralized digital skills training programs; establishing an ecosystem of local companies and community organizations providing low-cost devices; investing $800,000 in competitive grants for partner organizations; and training 1,500 advocates across 100 partner organizations about resources available for digital inclusion programs.

Pilot programs are currently underway with full scale operations expected by 2027. Board of Commissioners President John O'Grady expressed his support for this initiative: "Empowering underserved residents with affordable digital access to health care, financial management and job opportunities represents significant steps forward to generational and impactful progress in Franklin County...My colleagues and I remain unwavering in supporting our neighbors."

Filed Under: Government, City

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