YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Having internet access these days crucial, but there are a lot of people in the area who can’t afford it. Now, a new project is aimed at getting internet access to everyone.
A 2012 survey revealed that Youngstown has a 40.7% poverty rate with only 57% of households with a broadband Internet connection – putting Youngstown in the 3rd percentile rank for lack of broadband adoption compared to all other Ohio counties.
Although in general, broadband Internet service is available in low-income Youngstown neighborhoods, there is a high barrier to large-scale broadband adoption due to Youngstown’s high poverty rate coupled with high broadband service prices, lack of appropriate computers and network hardware, and a lack of basic computer and Internet skills training. Low broadband adoption rates create a large digital divide between lower and upper-income citizens.
The Youngstown-Mahoning County Broadband Initiative is a program that is helping customers bridge that digital divide. Director Pat Kerrigan said the first phase of the project is gathering information by conducting surveys. The next step is to work on getting funding to install broadband service throughout neighborhoods in the county.
“We are changing our ways of communication, and we have to figure out ways to get it to more people better, faster, cheaper,” Kerrigan said.
Information gathered to date includes the following:
- For all of Mahoning County, 66.2% of households had access to 10 Mbps broadband service (65,380 out of 98,710 households). These are residents that could subscribe to 10 Mbps service through a local provider, if they wanted to.
- Of this data, Youngstown connectivity likely drops another 10-15%, which is the compelling reason for the need of the survey data.
- Only 9.5% of Mahoning County households had access to 25 Mbps broadband service, which is the current standard, set by the FCC. Of the 9.5%, less than 3% of those were Youngstown Residents.
- The average download speed for broadband users across Mahoning County (as of June 2015) was between 6 Mbps and 10 Mbps.
- The broadband adoption rate in 2012 (percent of households actually subscribing to a broadband service) in Ohio was 71%- Mahoning County was also in that same 71% range.However, Youngstown Adoption Rate drops to 57%, with Census Tracts 8139, 8023, 8021, and 8024 likely to be even lower, due to correlating economic statistics of those census tracts.