Cuyahoga County, Ohio Soliciting Sustainable Internet Access and Digital Inclusion Solutions with RFP Due Sep 8th

Cuyahoga County, Ohio (pop. 1.23 million), encompassing Cleveland and the surrounding area along the bottom edge of Lake Erie, has released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) as part of its ongoing effort to "expand affordable, high-speed broadband services to those lacking Internet access." Sustainable solutions are the focus of the RFP, with particular emphasis given to economically disadvantaged communities and approaches that can not only offer low-cost or free options but convince households to sign up for service.

Proposals are due September 8th at 11am ET.

The RFP is just the latest effort as part of the Office of Innovation and Performance's effort to closing the digital divide in the city and surrounding area. It notes that:

Cuyahoga County is one of the worst-connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households in the County without any type of Internet service, including mobile data plans. About 32 percent of households in the County do not have a broadband connection at home, and 69 percent of these households have annual incomes below $35,000. 

The RFP and two subsequently released addenda (addendum 1 and addendum 2) indicate that a wide variety of options are being considered to address the connectivity challenges across the three different tiers of wireline coverage across the county (see map below. Red areas indicate that less than 60 percent of census tracts have basic broadband, peach areas indicate that 60-80 percent of census tracts have coverage, the yellow and grey hatched areas indicate that 60-80 percent of census tracts have coverage and households make above the county median annual income of $50,366, and finally the grey areas indicate greater than 80 percent coverage).

Respondents are encouraged to propose creative solutions including new infrastructure (including both middle and last-mile), "new products and pricing, new service options with discounted rates," subsidized connections, and/or wireless options so long as they reach residents in their homes with stable and robust connections. Proposals can include all or part of the county.

American Rescue Plan funding is being considered as part of Cuyahoga County's contribution, as are other avenues. Addendum 1 also notes that a county-owned or county-owned and operated network is also on the table.

Responses are due Wednesday, September 8th, at 11am ET.