Barberton, OH

AMHA to expand residential high-speed internet service

Paul Krasinic

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AKRON — Barberton residents who live in two Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) properties will soon have access to free quality internet service without having to leave their homes.

AMHA and Building for Tomorrow’s (BFT) ConnectHome Akron Initiative aim to provide reliable service to public housing tenants in Summit County through their ongoing Community Wi-Fi Zone project.

According to Megan Conkle, AMHA Resident Services Administrative Analyst, only about 55% of public housing in the U.S. have consistent high-speed broadband internet. Due to the pandemic, many people are now working from home and need reliable internet service. Children also depend on the internet for school. It has now become a necessity, no longer a luxury.

Since 2017, ConnectHome Akron, a partnership between AMHA, its nonprofit arm Building For Tomorrow, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has been working to bridge the “digital divide” in Summit County. The program includes free hotspot lending, device distribution days, community Wi-Fi installation, and digital literacy training.

In 2019, high-speed broadband had become available in all AMHA public housing community spaces, together with officials launching the first in-unit WI-Fi zones at Stephanie S. Keys Towers in Stow and Pinewood Gardens in Twinsburg in 2020.

“[The effort] will help our school children and keep them engaged and active with the school system,” said Barberton Mayor William Judge, who also said that officials were “excited” to donate $20,000 to the effort.

“The landscape of education has changed because of this pandemic. Even though we will be back in school completely in the fall of 2021, remote learning and support for our students will continue to be a part of what we do every day. It is critical that all students and families have access to Wi-Fi to be successful in the future,” he continued.

Officials are scheduled to finish installments at Paul E. Belcher senior apartments and Edgewood Village senior apartments in Akron by fall. According to Conkle, the community spaces they supplied were no longer useful due to the pandemic, so they quickly depended on the in-unit initiative.

The Barberton Wi-Fi Zone Project is predicted to be finished in the fall of 2021 and will provide an estimated 329 adults and 463 children living in the 272 AMHA public housing units located at Crimson Terrace and Van Buren Homes. The Barberton Wi-Fi Zone Project will not only going to impact children and adults that live in the housing, but it will impact all future families who live in Barberton properties.

The cost of the initiatives was estimated to be $153,000. AMHA contributed $65,000 in funding, while the school district contributed $50,000. Jeffrey Ramnytz, Barberton City School District Superintendent, said in a press release that “Barberton City School District is thrilled that we could assist our partners at AMHA to provide a permanent Wi-Fi solution for the students and families that reside in the households associated with AMHA.”

“Each year, our organization grants $250,000 for projects that help residents enjoy a better quality of life,” said Barberton Community Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Allen, Ph.D. For this initiative, Barberton Community Foundation itself has provided $18,000.

“Long after COVID is over, families will continue to have access to reliable Wi-Fi, which is not only important for education but also for healthcare, which is being transformed by the world of telemedicine. The Wi-Fi project will not only benefit our students but also assist our elderly and disabled residents in navigating their healthcare needs through technology,” Allen continued.

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