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Partnership aims to bridge the digital divide in Cuyahoga Falls

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Residents of public housing in Cuyahoga Falls will soon have access to free in-unit Wi-Fi.

Woodridge Local Schools, the city of Cuyahoga Falls and the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) are partnering to provide free Wi-Fi to residents in public housing.

AMHA Director of Resident Services Christina Hodgkinson said the project began with enabling Wi-Fi in public spaces such as community rooms, offices and libraries. The next step was to enable Wi-Fi within living spaces.

“We wanted to expand that a little bit further and do a Wi-Fi zone project,” Hodgkinson said. “That's what this project is focusing on by providing access to all units and residents living in our properties, and so, to date, we have successfully provided free in-unit Wi-Fi to 725 units of public housing.”

There are two major projects in Cuyahoga Falls, which are estimated to cost a total of $162,958.

The first will be an investment in Honey Locust Apartments and Lobello Lane Apartments to enable free Wi-Fi. This initiative is specifically targeted for children living in those areas that need Wi-Fi access to complete schoolwork.

AMHA believes in providing increased educational opportunities to our residents so that they are on task with their peers,” Hodgkinson said. “We do not want where they live or their income levels to define their educational achievement.”

The second project will provide Wi-Fi and tablets to residents of the Ray C. Sutliff Building, which primarily houses residents ages 62 and older.

“The city believed that it was important that we were able to provide each household with a tablet, a device to support our seniors in gaining access for socialization purposes, but also for health purposes and other opportunities for our seniors that would allow them to be connected to the greater community and to others,” Hodgkinson said.

The project in Cuyahoga Falls is part of a larger initiative for Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority to enable Wi-Fi at all its properties.

The housing authority works with community partners to help invest in their properties, Hodgkinson said.

“We’re doing basically one building, one property at a time, because it is expensive to be able to do,” she said. “And so we do need to find partners within the communities that our properties are in.”

Moving forward, the housing authority plans to continue the initiative at its properties. The next project is already in the works, Hodgkinson said.

“We already have slated a project at our Fowler building, which is in Akron at Highland Square,” she said. “Moving forward, our goal is to Wi-Fi each one of our public housing buildings that we own and manage, totally, and so we'll keep chipping away at each building, each property as we can find partners who will help support us.”

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.