POMEROY — Appalachian Ohio’s communities have long faced a digital divide. Compared to the state’s non-Appalachian region, Appalachian Ohio experiences slower internet connections, and fewer households are connected to the internet. That’s why the I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is working with Facebook and T-Mobile to improve internet access for students and families.
“The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is helping to fill a critical need for people in Southeast Ohio who have been left behind when it comes to connecting to reliable, high-speed internet,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted in a news release. “The Governor and I are grateful to Facebook and T-Mobile for helping to make these efforts possible and for being a part of the solution we all continue to work toward of ensuring every Ohioan can access the modern education system, modern economy, and modern healthcare system through broadband internet.”
FAO, Facebook, and T-Mobile will each contribute to libraries and schools in the region to help support their work to address gaps in connectivity throughout Appalachian Ohio’s communities.
“The children and families of Appalachian Ohio face a true barrier to education, accessing telehealth options, and connecting digitally to the opportunities that will help them thrive,” said the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s President & CEO, Cara Dingus Brook. “We are grateful to work with Facebook and T-Mobile to help Appalachian Ohio bridge this digital divide as internet access continues to be especially critical.”
FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund will provide libraries with hotspots, which library patrons may check out just like books through hotspot lending programs. These programs help individuals access remote learning, telehealth, remote work, and other vital services. Targeting communities identified as having the greatest need for new or expanded hotspot lending programs, the initiative will support library systems in Athens, Harrison, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Vinton, and other Appalachian Ohio counties with a total of 240 hotspots. Among these library systems is the Meigs County District Public Library, which will receive 40 hotspots through the partnership.
“We know that lack of access to the internet is a barrier for so many people who call Meigs County home, and we are thrilled by the opportunity to establish a hotspot lending program,” said the Meigs County District Public Library Director, Kristi Eblin.
FAO will also deploy Wi-Fi access points to school districts across the region based on the need for devices. As districts offer remote or hybrid learning, or prepare for the possibility of a return to remote learning, these access points will provide more options for students without reliable internet connections while also enhancing connectivity within school buildings.
“Back-to-school looks different this year — parents, teachers, and students are facing a myriad of challenges, including many students needing access to reliable internet for distance learning,” said Dr. Adam Seldow, director, education partnerships at Facebook. “Facebook is committed to helping bridge the digital divide, and by collaborating with FAO to address some of the more immediate connectivity needs faced by the Appalachian community, we aim to create a positive impact for children and their families.”
As part of this program, Facebook is donating access point technology and hotspots for schools and libraries across Appalachian Ohio and six months of unlimited data service on T-Mobile’s network for that technology. Through its EmpowerED program, T-Mobile will supply another six months of unlimited data service on their wireless network and customer support for the hotspots and access points.
“Families in Appalachian Ohio face tremendous barriers due to lack of broadband access and infrastructure – preventing them from accessing equitable education and opportunities,” said Dr. Kiesha Taylor, national education administrator at T-Mobile. “T-Mobile believes in the power of connectivity and the potential it offers for ALL Americans – in communities big and small, urban and rural. We are proud to play a part in making an impact for communities throughout this region.”
This I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund initiative builds upon recent I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund grants to fund community WIFI access points at schools and in communities throughout Appalachian Ohio and to develop a report to track the region’s progress in overcoming the digital divide. FAO’s emergency response to COVID-19 also included funding to increase digital connectivity. The I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund is dedicated to meeting the most pressing needs and pursuing the most promising opportunities for people and communities throughout the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. The Fund works across FAO’s five Pillars of Prosperity: Arts & Culture, Community & Economic Development, Education, Environmental Stewardship, and Health & Human Services.
To learn more about this initiative or to support the I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund with a gift today, contact FAO at 740.753.1111 or visit www.AppalachianOhio.org. To learn about the Meigs County Community Fund, a fund of FAO that serves Meigs County communities, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org/Meigs.
About the Meigs County Community Fund
The Meigs County Community Fund was created in 2011 to increase and advance philanthropic activities in Meigs County. The Meigs County Community Fund works to attract philanthropic resources in the form of gifts, grants, or bequests to benefit the broader community.
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 and follow FAO on Facebook and Instagram.
Information provided by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.