Summit County organizations partner to bridge the digital divide
Two organizations in Summit County are partnering to provide free internet access to residents of low-income public housing.
Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) is working with nonprofit Community Action Akron Summit to lend hotspots to residents of Summit Lake Apartments. This is just the beginning of a new program aimed at closing the digital divide, said Christina Hodgkinson, AMHA's director of resident services.
“And then from there on we’re going to start selecting some of our other public housing developments or communities and continue down that path until all one thousand are gone," Hodgkinson said.
Previously, AMHA hosted a similar but much smaller program, with only 235 hotspots through a grant from Sprint. When that grant ended, AMHA decided to launch a larger version of the program. The new hotspot program is funded by AMHA and Community Action Akron Summit.
Skylah Smith picked up one of the hotspots. She’s trying to start her own business selling homemade soap and said her internet connection isn’t reliable.
“There’s outages," Smith said. "We get those quite frequently, so having a hotspot, that will definitely help.”
Resident Rachael Kelly also picked up a hotspot. She needs internet for her son James who started kindergarten this year.
"He plays learning programs on his tablet, like ABC's and 123 games, like his learning games," Kelly said.
Kelly has struggled getting internet in the past. She used to get internet through Jobs and Family Services, but she said they turned it off. She's excited to now have a stable connection.
The program is providing a crucial service, said AMHA Executive Director Herman Hill.
“Because I believe it closes the digital divide and help residents access the internet to find jobs, to pay bills, to seek information," Hill said. "So, I think it’s a great idea to provide this avenue.”
Residents can check out the hotspots for three-month periods and can renew after that. Residents will get a check-in after three months and can check out the hotspot again or return it to AMHA. The hotspot then can go back out to another resident for use.
The hotspot lending program is part of a bigger effort by AMHA to close the digital divide among public housing and low income residents, said Hodgkinson.
Future distribution events at other Summit County public housing family communities will be announced at a later date.