Cleveland Clinic, DigitalC and two Cleveland businesses, TransDigm Group Incorporated (NYSE:TDG) and The Lubrizol Foundation, are coming together to help provide affordable high-speed internet to residents of the Fairfax neighborhood in Cleveland. The effort aims to help impact disparities in internet coverage in the local community, which can affect access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities. According to 2019 Census Bureau data, Cleveland is the worst-connected large city, with nearly 50,000 households not having reliable broadband.
Particularly in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, access to internet affects a person’s ability to search and apply for jobs, utilize healthcare and telehealth services, fully participate in their education and virtually connect with friends, family and colleagues.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further illuminated the crucial role internet access plays in the overall health and well-being a population, and it is critical that we work to overcome digital inequities,” said Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic. “Cleveland Clinic is proud to be part of this initiative and to have partners who will help support our community to deliver the tools, resources and services needed to foster growth and education for our closest neighbors for years to come.”
Broadband for the households covered in this program will be provided by EmpowerCLE, a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) founded by and operating within DigitalC. DigitalC is a nonprofit organization focused on improving Cleveland’s digital equity and providing residents with an affordable, high-speed internet connection. EmpowerCLE has installed equipment on the rooftops of two Cleveland Clinic main campus buildings in order to expand its coverage in the Fairfax community. EmpowerCLE Brand Ambassadors and technicians will visit local households to offer the connection and install the necessary equipment to begin service.
While DigitalC and EmpowerCLE provide affordable internet services, in order to further lower the cost for Fairfax residents, Cleveland Clinic has brought together additional partners with an interest in connecting underserved areas. In addition, TransDigm and The Lubrizol Foundation have agreed to contribute significant funds to further reduce the monthly subscription fee and help subsidize the cost of equipment.
In addition to working with DigitalC, earlier this year, Cleveland Clinic signed on to the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition, which advocates to bring high speed internet to rural and under-connected areas. Connecting underserved areas with reliable high-speed internet is one way Cleveland Clinic aims to positively impact social determinants of health in our communities. Social determinants of health are factors such as food security, housing, infant mortality, chronic diseases, education quality and access and economic opportunity which affect a person’s health and wellbeing. According to the National Academy of Medicine, medical care is estimated to account for only 20% of a person’s health — social determinants of health can make up the other 80%.
“Social determinants of health lay the foundation of a person’s overall health and have a lifelong impact on their health outcomes,” said Adam Myers, M.D., Cleveland Clinic’s Chief of Population Health. “By identifying areas we can help, such as providing broadband
connection, and engaging with like-minded partners, we can make a difference in creating a better, healthier community for everyone.”
Installation should be complete for Fairfax residents by the second quarter of 2021.