AT&T, Oak Hill Lay Foundation for Digital Future
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A critical step in addressing the connectivity problems that have for years plagued the city of Youngstown is near completion, officials said.
AT&T is installing fiber that will bring high-speed internet access to the Youngstown metro area. The project will be complete by the end of the year, said AT&T Ohio President Molly Kocour Boyle.
Boyle made the announcement during a press event Tuesday at the Oak Hill Collaborative.
She told those in attendance that between 2019 and 2021, AT&T invested $45 million in wireless and wire line infrastructure in Youngstown.
“That’s more than $1 million a month in Youngstown alone,” she said. “That investment is what powers the connectivity.”
Boyle said the network will address the needs of today and also help ensure that essential internet-based services will be available in the future.
As two examples, she pointed to the rise of telemedicine and the future adoption of autonomous vehicles.
“You don’t want a buffering experience to happen when you’re in an autonomous vehicle,” she said.
Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said the investments announced Tuesday would be crucial to building the local economy.
“The timing of this announcement is perfect. We recently announced that, for the first time in 68 years, a company is relocating its corporate headquarters to downtown Youngstown,” he said. “For us to continue that momentum, the investment that AT&T is making with us today will go a long way.”
But providing access is only part of the solution to improving connectivity, according to Boyle.
“The other pieces that make it challenging for folks to use the internet are affordability and adoption,” she said.
On the adoption front, AT&T has been partnering with the Oak Hill Collaborative to provide free workshops to improve digital literacy among the local population.
At the press event, officials presented the nonprofit with a check for $20,000 to support its Digital Advantage Initiative, which provides computer courses for seniors, adults and young people, as well as the unemployed and underemployed.
“Youngstown right now is the second-worst city in the state of Ohio for connectivity,” said Pat Kerrigan, executive director of Oak Hill.
In addition to hosting workshops, Oak Hill also distributes refurbished computers at a discounted price, and Kerrigan said Oak Hill would soon be expanding its Digital Advantage Initiative to Warren.
“I hope to be doing it in the city of Warren in two months. We’re that close,” Kerrigan said.
Oak Hill is eyeing a space in the Trumbull Community Action Program building, formerly Warren City Junior High School, and Kerrigan said he’s hoping to support the program with American Rescue Plan funds from the city as well as Trumbull County.
As for the third challenge, affordability, Boyle encouraged residents who qualify to sign up for the Affordability Connectivity Program, which reduces monthly internet bills by $30. “When you combine that with our existing Access from AT&T Program, that zeroes out to free internet,” she said.
Under the connectivity program, families of four who earn up to $54,000 a year qualify for the discount.
Residents can find out if AT&T Fiber is available to their home or sign up for an alert when it is available by visiting att.com/notifyme.
Pictured from left: Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown: Ron Gay, staff representative for Communication Workers of America District 4; Molly Kocour Boyle, state president AT&T Ohio; Patrick Kerrigan, executive director, Oak Hill Collaborative; Christopher Wyche, external affairs director, AT&T; Guy Coviello, president & CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.