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Funding is awarded for Wi-Fi access

NELSONVILLE — The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the AEP Ohio Foundation have awarded more than $40,000 to support nonprofit and public organizations working to expand community Wi-Fi access points in communities across Appalachian Ohio.

Among the grantees was the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant in Jefferson County, which received funding to support the installation of a community Wi-Fi access point, which will serve as the village’s first publicly available Wi-Fi.

By allowing an expansion of community Wi-Fi access points, this funding opportunity aims to increase access to connectivity during this critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic while creating a long-term community benefit that can support additional opportunities.

“As parents and educators prepare for the possibility of online 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 percent of Appalachian Ohio households had a broadband connection, compared to 78 percent 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 Wi-Fi access points, which will be complete early this fall to meet community Wi-Fi needs during the 2020-21 school year.

Other grantees include the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District in Belmont County; Cambridge City Schools and the Guernsey County Community Development Corp. for projects serving Guernsey County; the Fort Frye Local School District in Washington County; the Greenfield Exempted Village School District in Highland and Ross counties; the Holmes County District Public Library; Nelsonville-York City Schools in Athens County; the Portsmouth Public Library in Scioto County; Ridgewood Local Schools in Coshocton County; Rural Action, the Southern Local School District, and the Southern Perry Incubation Center for Entrepreneurs for projects serving Perry County; and Vinton County Local Schools.

“Internet connectivity has been a major barrier in Appalachian Ohio for far too long,” said Cara Dingus Brook, the foundation’s president and CEO. “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.”

Information about FAO’s ongoing work to Increase internet connectivity across Appalachian Ohio is available at the AppalachianOhio.org website or by contacting the foundation at (740) 753-1111.

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