NELSONVILLE — The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) and the AEP Ohio Foundation have awarded more than $40,000 to support nonprofit and public organizations working to expand community WIFI access points in communities across Appalachian Ohio.
By allowing an expansion of community WIFI access points, this funding opportunity aims to increase access to connectivity during this critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic while also creating a long-term community benefit that can support additional opportunities.
“As parents and educators prepare for the possibility of on-line schooling, it is more important than ever to provide internet connectivity throughout our communities,” said Raja Sundararajan, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. “We are proud to work with FAO to provide this long overdue and much needed service.”
Appalachian Ohio faces a digital divide that has created particular challenges for our communities throughout the transition to remote learning and greater dependence on other virtual services. As of 2016, only 68% of Appalachian Ohio households had a broadband connection, compared to 78% of households in Ohio’s non-Appalachian counties. Households in Appalachian Ohio that do have internet connectivity are likely to experience substantially slower connections.
Fourteen organizations received funding to support the installation of community WIFI access points, which will be complete early this fall to meet community WIFI needs during the 2020-2021 school year.
Among the grantees was the Portsmouth Public Library in Scioto County, which received funding to install outdoor access points at two of its locations. In April and May, the library system was able to install access points at its three other libraries, which have supported about 10,000 connections throughout the past month alone. Installing access points at the remainder of the system’s libraries will allow even more community members to connect.
Other grantees include the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District in Belmont County; Cambridge City Schools and the Guernsey County Community Development Corporation for projects serving Guernsey County; the Fort Frye Local School District in Washington County; the Greenfield Exempted Village School District in Highland and Ross counties; the Historical Society of Mt. Pleasant in Jefferson County; the Holmes County District Public Library; Nelsonville-York City Schools in Athens County; Ridgewood Local Schools in Coshocton County; Rural
Action, the Southern Local School District, and the Southern Perry Incubation Center for Entrepreneurs for projects serving Perry County; and Vinton County Local Schools.
“Internet connectivity has been a major barrier in Appalachian Ohio for far too long,” said Foundation for Appalachian Ohio President & CEO, Cara Dingus Brook. “We’re very grateful for AEP Ohio’s partnership in tackling this critical need, and we look forward to continuing to work together to advance digital equity. It’s essential that we realize the day when everyone in Appalachian Ohio has access to the internet.”
To learn more about FAO’s ongoing work to increase internet connectivity across Appalachian Ohio or to learn how you can support this work, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org or contact the Foundation at 740.753.1111.