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Fourteen Organizations Receive Funding to Increase Internet Access in Appalachian Ohio


Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and AEP Ohio Award Over $40,000 to Support Community WIFI

Nelsonville, OH – The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) and the AEP Ohio Foundation have awarded over $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. 

The Bridgeport Exempted Village School District in Belmont County received funding to support the installation of three outdoor WIFI access points. These access points will create more equitable access to remote or hybrid learning by growing opportunities for connectivity among the 23% of the district’s students who lack reliable internet access. 

Cambridge City Schools in Guernsey County received funding to support WIFI access points at the district’s high school, middle school, and intermediate school. These access points will help the district prepare for the possibility of remote learning throughout the upcoming school year. 

The Fort Frye Local School District in Washington County received funding to install WIFI access points on three of its longest bus routes, which will provide students with more time to complete schoolwork before getting home or on the way to school. If the district returns to remote learning, the district will park the buses in areas with limited internet access to serve as community access points and create opportunities for connectivity among the 45% of students with unreliable access to high-speed internet. 

The Greenfield Exempted Village School District in Highland and Ross counties received funding to install access points in two school parking lots, creating opportunities for connectivity among the 30% of families in the district who do not have access to strong internet connections. 

The Guernsey County Community Development Corporation received funding to support the installation of a community WIFI access point at Leatherwood Park in Lore City, a village underserved by internet providers. 

The Historical Society of Mt. Pleasant in Jefferson County received funding to support the installation of a community WIFI access point, which will serve as the village’s first publicly available WIFI. 

The Holmes County District Public Library received funding to support the installation of an outdoor WIFI access point. The library has been unable to offer consistent indoor access to the internet during the pandemic, which many patrons relied upon. The outdoor WIFI will be available even when the library is closed to support the increased need for connectivity. 

Nelsonville-York City Schools in Athens County received funding to support community WIFI access points at volunteer fire department locations throughout the district. The volunteer fire departments are located centrally throughout the rural areas served by the district.  

The Portsmouth Public Library in Scioto County 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 over the past month alone. Installing access points at the remainder of the system’s libraries will allow even more community members to connect. 

Ridgewood Local Schools in Coshocton County received funding to support WIFI access points outside the district’s school buildings, creating opportunities for connectivity among the 32% of district students without reliable internet access. 

Rural Action received funding to expand community WIFI in Perry County. Access points at Shawnee Village Hall and Shawnee Village Park will be among the first consistently accessible public WIFI access points in the village.  

The Southern Local School District in Perry County received funding to support community WIFI access points outside its school buildings. These access points will create opportunities for connectivity among the 35% of students without access to the internet as well as another 15% that lack a high-speed connection. 

The Southern Perry Incubation Center for Entrepreneurs (SPICE) received funding to support a WIFI access point in New Straitsville, where community members have experienced a lack of public WIFI access. 

Vinton County Local Schools received funding to support WIFI access points outside school buildings, which will support students without reliable access to the internet. 

“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. 

About the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio 
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation creates opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy. For more information about FAO, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org, follow FAO on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FoundationforAppalachianOhio, or follow FAO on Instagram @FDNforAppalachianOhio.