Joshua Edmonds, the CEO of non-profit provider DigitalC, said his organization identifies with Cleveland’s underdog story and is the only service provider based in the city.
Digital redlining is described by experts as a term to reference when digital technology, and its availability, perpetuates and amplifies historical systems of discrimination. That’s what Joshua Edmonds said Digital C hopes to counter in Cleveland.
The organization, a non-profit that describes itself as a “technology social enterprise,” knows the city of Cleveland well, according to Edmonds, who recently spoke to Broadband Communities. He said Ditigal C, which is based in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, hopes to foster entrepreneurship in the city, which has been hit hard economically.
“We look at infrastructure as a pivotal piece to leveling the playing field,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds said his company, which he said is the only service provider based in Cleveland, identifies with Cleveland’s underdog story.
“We are neighbors connecting neighbors,” he said.
The city, which is almost half African American demographically, reported over 32 percent of residents as living below the poverty line, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. There are almost 30,000 households in Cleveland without any type of broadband, according to Digital C’s website, which represents around 17 percent of the city’s population.
Earlier this fall, Cleveland’s city council approved $20 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support the deployment of a citywide internet network and the facilitation of digital skills training, according to a September announcement from DigitalC.
In May, DigitalC was selected as Cleveland’s chosen internet provider vendor. Upon being awarded the proposal, the company became responsible for connecting 23,500 households and reaching 50,000 individuals through digital skills training within four years, according to Digital C’s website.
Edmonds said he believes DigitalC was selected by Cleveland because they submitted the most comprehensive proposal, and because other providers did not want to commit to providing service to all in Cleveland.
Along with offering courses and opportunities to increase digital literacy skills for Cleveland residents, efforts which Edmonds said are active and ongoing, the company will be changing its marketing to be more tailored for the audience they want to reach.
“When I took over the company, I knew that was one of the biggest things we had to change,” he said.
Edmonds said he wants DigitalC to stand out to Cleveland residents by using iconic Cleveland landmarks in the organization’s marketing that emphasizes “Cleveland Pride,” and the city’s story of resilience.
Founded in 2015, DigitalC completed their first pilot project several years later in 2018. Since the pilot project, which provided devices and internet access to 500-plus Cleveland households, DigitalC has connected more than 1,100 households, including the homes of more than 900 Cleveland Metropolitan School District students, according to the company’s website.