EYEJ compiling accurate, up-to-date portrait of Cleveland’s digital divide
(Plain Press, October 2020) Cleveland’s digital divide has emerged as a central issue for Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice (EYEJ). Compelled by its mission to improve the lives of young people, EYEJ is actively engaged in an effort to fully understand and support real solutions to the widespread lack of broadband internet access in Cleveland.
EYEJ is digging deeply, compiling the latest available figures into a searchable database. Preliminary, general results reveal strong relationships between race, poverty, and internet access. In certain predominantly poorer, Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods, 50 to 70 percent of homes have no internet subscriptions.
This is especially problematic during the coronavirus pandemic, when the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is operating virtually. It is likely many students do not have the high-speed Internet service required to take part in online classes and complete schoolwork.
“The issue is greater than what people are aware of,” said Casey Morris, the Microsoft consultant and EYEJ Collective Board member developing the database. “The neighborhoods that can’t have this type of service are going to fall behind. We really need to have a serious focus on addressing these disparities.”
One barrier to broadband access is the cost of broadband subscriptions. The other is subtle and more challenging: “redlining,” the practice by internet providers of limiting service options in certain neighborhoods according to their racial or economic profiles. In Cleveland, it is rampant.
This is the problem EYEJ seeks to illuminate. Executive Director Mai Moore said many are aware of Cleveland’s digital divide but most are using outdated, overly broad information. Pending funding to support its effort, EYEJ intends to complete its database and provide officials and the public with the most current and detailed analysis possible.
“A lot of decisions are being made on very broad, general information,” Moore said. “If we want equity, we need to be really honest about what the truth is.”