Appalachian Ohio’s communities have long faced a digital divide. Compared to the state’s non-Appalachian region, Appalachian Ohio experiences slower internet connections and fewer households are connected to the internet. That’s why the I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is working with Facebook and T-Mobile to improve internet access for students and families.
“The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is helping to fill a critical need for people in Southeast Ohio who have been left behind when it comes to connecting to reliable, high-speed internet,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “The governor and I are grateful to Facebook and T-Mobile for helping to make these efforts possible and for being a part of the solution we all continue to work toward of ensuring every Ohioan can access the modern education system, modern economy, and modern health care system through broadband internet.”
FAO, Facebook and T-Mobile will each contribute to libraries and schools in the region to help support their work to address gaps in connectivity throughout Appalachian Ohio’s communities.
FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund will provide libraries with hotspots, which library patrons may check out just like books through hotspot lending programs. These programs help individuals access remote learning, telehealth, remote work, and other vital services. Targeting communities identified as having the greatest need for new or expanded hotspot lending programs, the initiative will support library systems in Athens, Harrison, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Vinton and other Appalachian Ohio counties with a total of 240 hotspots.
FAO will also deploy Wi-Fi access points to school districts across the region based on the need for devices. As districts offer remote or hybrid learning, or prepare for the possibility of a return to remote learning, these access points will provide more options for students without reliable internet connections while also enhancing connectivity within school buildings.
As part of this program, Facebook is donating access point technology and hotspots for schools and libraries across Appalachian Ohio and six months of unlimited data service on T-Mobile’s network for that technology. Through its EmpowerED program, T-Mobile will supply another six months of unlimited data service on its wireless network and customer support for the hotspots and access points.
The I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund initiative builds upon recent I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund grants to fund community Wi-Fi access points at schools and in communities throughout Appalachian Ohio and to develop a report to track the region’s progress in overcoming the digital divide. FAO’s emergency response to COVID-19 also included funding to increase digital connectivity. The I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund is dedicated to meeting the most pressing needs and pursuing the most promising opportunities for people and communities throughout the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio.
Submitted by Daniel Kington, communications and programs associate, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.