New Task Force Seeks to Bridge the Digital Divide in Appalachia

By COH Staff

We’re excited to share that today, the Governor’s Office of Appalachia in conjunction with Connect Ohio and Chesapeake Energy, announced the launch of the Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative to address the broadband divide facing rural Appalachia. The Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative will be run by a task force made up of state and local stakeholders, both public and private, to immediately take action to overcome connectivity barriers and digital literacy gaps in the region.

“The Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative is the result of government, nonprofit organization, and the private sector collaboration to assist Ohio’s Appalachian community,” said Jason Wilson, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia. “I believe that with this partnership we will greatly reduce the number of Ohioans in Appalachia without broadband service.”

The aim of the task force and new initiative is to pull Appalachia to within state and national standards in broadband adoption within 24 months. The failure to connect has significant implications on the region’s ability to keep up with the demands of the digital economy. According to Connect Ohio’s research:

  • One in three children in rural Appalachian Ohio does not have broadband service at home
  • One out of three households do not have a home computer in the Appalachian region

There is a growing divide between the digital haves and have-nots:

  • Less than one-third of the poorest Americans have adopted broadband, while at least 90 percent of the richest have broadband
  • About 46 percent of low-income families have adopted broadband at home, compared with more than 90 percent of higher-income families
  • Only 55 percent of residents in rural Appalachian Ohio subscribe to home broadband service, significantly lower than the state average of 66 percent
  • The broadband adoption gap in Appalachia Ohio exists across all income levels, particularly between those at both the highest and lowest income levels

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