Devonne Woodruff walked into the MetroHealth Buckeye Health Center in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood to talk with some of the helpful staff about a program that assists with home heating bills. In the lobby, a cart of free books for kids caught his eye; he grabbed one he was sure his son would like. Then he saw the sign that said, “Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide.” The staff and some visitors were talking about strong internet service that’s low-cost or even free. And refurbished laptops being provided free for qualified households. He wound up taking home more than just a book.
“I earned an associate degree online right as I was getting out of the Army, but that was seven years ago,” he said. “I really want to get back to school and go for a bachelor’s degree in business. You almost have to have a laptop for college classes, so this is going to be a big help.”
Woodruff was one of 50 people who visited the MetroHealth facility and were connected with AT&T and our partners from device refurbisher RET3 Job Corp., Inc. and the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (ASC3) for an ACP Internet & Device Event.
Digital Navigators from ASC3 helped visitors register for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a government program that provides up to $30/month for eligible households toward their internet service. Staff from AT&T offered information about the low-cost Access from AT&T program, letting those who were approved for the ACP know that they’re also eligible for Access, which offers $30/month home internet plans. The refurbished laptops from RET3 mean those new internet connections can be put to use right away.
“Inequities in digital access, affordability and adoption affect access to health, employment, and education which are all essential,” said Marielee Santiago, director of education and training for The MetroHealth System’s Institute for HOPE. “Through partnership and community engagement we can ensure everyone has access to affordable and high-quality internet service, devices, and digital literacy. I’m thankful to our partners, AT&T, RET3, ASC3 and others as we strive to achieve digital equity.”
AT&T and MetroHealth are already looking ahead to plan another ACP Internet & Device Event in another Cleveland neighborhood soon. It’ll provide one more opportunity to collaborate within the community, narrow the digital divide, and bring broadband’s benefits to more Ohioans.