Article: Partnering to Bring Free Broadband Internet to Lorain

Partnering to Bring Free Broadband Internet to Lorain

September 16, 2021

Lorain, OH — Lorain City Schools and the City of Lorain are exploring partnership and funding opportunties to bring a free broadband internet network to the city to connect and empower residents of their community. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was posted today to invite potential partners to support the project throughinfrastructure, software and technical support.

"The need to close the digital divide in our community became obvious last year as our schools and families shifted to remote learning during the pandemic," shares CEO/Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. "This initiative is something we've been investigating for months now, and we're excited to be exploring the possibilities with the support of Mayor Bradley and the City of Lorain. If we can pull this off, it will make a world a difference for our students, families, and entire community."

According to the latest Census, the City of Lorain is now the ninth largest city in Ohio, with a 1.7 percent increase in its population since 2010, defying the overall trend for population loss in big cities in the state. At the same time, Lorain has been ranked as one of the Top-20 big cities in America for poor and limited access to broadband internet access (National Digital Inclusion Alliance data). 

In the Lorain City Schools, enrollment has also increased despite projections, with an additional 600 students joining the district this fall alone. About 44% of the district’s students identify as Hispanic, 27 percent as Black or African American and 24 percent white, with 100% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

Results from the Ohio Department of Education’s January 2021 Opportunity to Learn survey show that school districts serving large populations of Hispanic students and/or homes experiencing poverty report the lowest rates of internet connectivity at home. 

“This past year school districts in every community experienced a huge transformation in education,” shares Lorain City Schools CEO/Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. “And while our educators and families did a phenomenal job learning to engage in new ways during the pandemic, much of what we’ve learned will carry on beyond our days with COVID-19. Our goal is to provide our students and community with the same opportunities available in more affluent communities, through an approach that is steeped in Lorain history — by working together.”

“We are excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage American Rescue Plan Act funds for this need in our community,” said Mayor Jack Bradley. “Free, reliable access to broadband internet will change the lives of our residents for many years to come. Equitable access to the internet is critical to the livelihood and quality of life for our community, and we're excited to make this possible for all who call Lorain home."

The goal of this initiative is to build upon existing infrastructure throughout the City of Lorain to provide free internet access to:

  • Enable students to participate in remote learning opportunities beyond the school day, and as it becomes necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Connect families to community resources, online bill pay, grocery delivery, and similar services;
  • Enable residents to apply for jobs online and work remotely;
  • Facilitate virtual appointments such as doctor’s appointments, legal aid and parent-teacher conferences.

The City and Schools anticipate initial funds for the contruction of the network to come from the latest federal stimulus bill, including American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) state fiscal recovery allocations and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. Ongoing operational costs would be funded through participating government agencies and outside partners. Additional information about the RFP can be found on the City of Lorain’s website at https://www.cityoflorain.org/Bids.aspx.

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