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Disconnected During a Crisis: Life in Dayton Region Without Internet

The following was published by the Dayton Daily News on April 8, 2020
by Cornelius Frolik 

An estimated one in six households in the Dayton region do not have internet service during a global pandemic when people are depending on the web like never before.

With Ohioans ordered to shelter in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, residents with service can’t go online to work, learn, access health care or shop from home.

Residents most likely to lack internet service include vulnerable community members, such as the poor and the elderly, officials say.

“For those clients without internet access, it definitely impedes their ability to fully engage with virtual programming opportunities,” said Jenny Bonifas, senior director of vocational services with Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley.

The isolation caused by the state’s stay-at-home orders can be mitigated using the internet to stay in contact with friends and family members, and combat boredom by streaming videos and movies and downloading other content, said Tim Kambitsch, executive director of the Dayton Metro Library.

“For those without internet access, they are both physically and intellectually sequestered,” he said.

About 710,000 households in Ohio, including about 102,000 in the seven-county Miami Valley region, do not have any internet service at home, according to data from the 2018 U.S. Census American Community Survey and Connected Nation Ohio’s analysis of broadband availability.

Without internet, people can’t access online education, work from home, get current news about the virus and order food and products when stores and restaurants are closed, said Tina Lyden, state director of Connected Nation Ohio, which is focused on increasing Internet access and adoption in the state.

The coronavirus crisis “has affected almost everything we do,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, Dayton-area residents who do not have internet at home could visit local recreation centers, libraries, various public buildings, coffee shops or fast-food restaurants to get access.

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