TNP, Oak Hill Collaborative Expand Access to Broadband Program

WARREN, Ohio — Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the Oak Hill Collaborative have combined resources to help promote the federal reimbursement Emergency Broadband Benefit program to Warren area residents, the organizations announced Monday.

Under the federal program, qualifying low-income families will receive up to $50 off per month on their internet bill. For many, it may result in free internet service, the organizations said.

“The Collaborative previously has been promoting the program in Youngstown along with low-cost refurbished computers and free computer classes,” says Pat Kerrigan, executive director of the Oak Hill Collaborative. “This effort will help bridge the digital divide in Warren as it brings more affordable and equitable internet to our residents.”

Steve Kristan, broadband coordinator for Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, says the objective is three fold: to promote accessibility, adoption and affordability for internet services.

“Youngstown is the second-least connected city in Ohio and Warren is the fifth-least connected,” Kristan says. “We need to change that.”

Eastgate sponsored a feasibility study in June that contained several recommendations on how to improve broadband usage in the region, Kristan says. One of these recommendations was to initiate awareness and outreach efforts at a grassroots level to educate area residents and promote adoption of broadband.

Oak Hill, for example, is working in Youngstown to make neighborhoods aware of programs that can help close the digital divide, Kristan says. “They want to do the same thing in Warren,” he says.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program helps potential users with affordability issues, which then paves the way for adoption, he says.

It’s especially critical today, since many employees use high-speed internet service to work from home, residents use it for health care information, and students are more reliant than ever on fast, reliable networks, Kristan says.

As part of its Digital Advantage Initiative, representatives from the Collaborative will be on site at designated days and locations in Warren to explain the program and to help residents navigate through the two-step signup process, Kerrigan says. This includes helping the residents complete the online forms and the selection of an internet provider.

For families in need of a computer, refurbished computers are available at inexpensive prices.

“We strive every day to help those families most in need in our community,” says Lisa Ramsey, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership deputy director. “Digital inclusion efforts such as this are essential in today’s society, where it is increasingly hard to access education, healthcare or employment opportunities without access to a computer and the internet.”

Free basic computer training, installation/set up, and troubleshooting will also be made available. The specific EBB sign-up days and locations will be announced later this month.

For more information, please contact the Oak Hill Collaborative at 330 406 0731.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.