ConnectedNEO: High-speed broadband has a new name in Cleveland

By Dawn Glasco and Ed George

You typically don’t think about internet access.

Unless it’s a bill, you have a problem, or you’re shopping for coverage, internet for most of us is as unconscious as turning on a light switch.

However, the pandemic has turned the spotlight on how many residents in Cleveland have little to no bandwidth, a critical situation in today’s hyper-connected world.

The “discovery” of the “digital divide” in Cleveland has led to a modern day gold rush, with promises of improvements, funding, and connectivity. However, residents are more often than not excluded from these conversations.

To address this, a group of Clevelanders came up with ConnectedNEO; A neighborhood-based internet service provider co-op, where residents not only have access to the internet, but have ownership of the service they use.

After thousands of hours of conversation and collaboration, ConnectedNEO crafted a Digital Bill of Rights. This is a list of statements about the digital justice all residents of Northeast Ohio should experience, and statements it will stand on as it deploys its network.

They are currently working on a larger list of statements for the telecom industry that will be based on three principles that residents believe shape a more just and fairer user experience: Equitable Pricing, Accountability in Governance, and Transparency in Coverage and Performance.

ConnectedNEO offers residents a voice, a vote, and control over the internet they use.

“We heard an outcry from people of all walks of life who are disenfranchised by the effects of digital redlining. We spoke with instructors who are disconnected from students, patients who are disconnected from physicians, and families who are unable to connect with each other through internet activities that are easily available to some. When our youth program was nearly dismantled due to the disconnect, we felt the need to do more,” said Mark Silverberg, a member of the ConnectedNEO strategic team.

ConnectedNEO has recently received funding for a initial test in the Central Neighborhood which they hope to deploy in the near future.

You can find out more about its efforts at www.connectedneo.com

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ConnectedNEO is designed to deliver to Cleveland neighborhoods a broadband mesh network cooperative that gives residents ownership and the options of having in-home connectivity as well as open-network community access.

No other system in Cleveland is offering broadband connectivity in this fashion. However, after engaging in thousands of hours of conversation with Cleveland and Cuyahoga County residents, it became clear that high quality, affordable, high-speed broadband, with an opportunity for community ownership, is the desired game-changer.

The Resident and worker owned co-op ownership model allows residents to participate in decision-making regarding community resources and services, participate in civic engagement, develop community-based investment assets, learning more about entrepreneurialism, financial equity, and collective problem solving.

Since broadband affordability is a key resident concern, residents see a co-op as an ideal structure to accomplish these multiple objectives. ConnectedNEO has partnered with Cleveland Owns to accomplish this objective. Cleveland Owns a nonprofit incubator of cooperative enterprises. They organize multiracial, grassroots cooperatives that enable member owners to build wealth and power. Cleveland Owns belive that in racial capitalism, ownership matters.

ConnectedNEO believes that when residents, institutions, and funders work together, the possibilities are endless.  Lear more here:

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