AT&T, Oak Hill Lay Foundation for Digital Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A critical step in addressing connectivity issues that have plagued the city of Youngstown for years is nearing completion, officials said.

AT&T installs fiber that will bring high-speed Internet access to the Youngstown metro area. The project will be completed by the end of the year, said AT&T Ohio President Molly Kocour Boyle.

Boyle made the announcement at a Tuesday press conference at the Oak Hill Collaborative.
She told those in attendance that between 2019 and 2021, AT&T invested $45 million in wireless and wireline infrastructure in Youngstown.

“It’s over a million dollars a month in Youngstown alone,” she said. “That investment is what fuels connectivity.”

Boyle said the network will meet the needs of today and also help ensure essential internet services are available in the future.

As two examples, she cited the rise of telemedicine and the future adoption of autonomous vehicles.

“You don’t want a buffering experience to happen when you’re in a self-driving vehicle,” she said.

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said the investments announced Tuesday would be crucial to strengthening the local economy.

“The timing of this announcement is perfect. We recently announced that, for the first time in 68 years, a company is moving its headquarters to downtown Youngstown,” he said. “For us to continue this momentum, the investment AT&T is making with us today will go a long way.”

But providing access is only part of the solution to improving connectivity, according to Boyle.
“The other things that make it difficult for people to use the internet are affordability and adoption,” she said.

On the adoption front, AT&T has partnered with the Oak Hill Collaborative to offer free workshops aimed at improving digital literacy among the local population.

At the press event, officials presented the nonprofit with a check for $20,000 to support its Digital Advantage initiative, which provides computer courses for seniors, adults and youth, as well as the unemployed and underemployed.

“Youngstown is currently the second-worst city in the state of Ohio for connectivity,” said Pat Kerrigan, executive director of Oak Hill.

In addition to hosting workshops, Oak Hill also distributes refurbished computers at a discount, and Kerrigan said Oak Hill will soon expand its Digital Advantage initiative to Warren.

“I’m hoping to do it in the town of Warren in two months. We’re so close,” Kerrigan said.

Oak Hill is considering space in the Trumbull Community Action Program building, formerly Warren City Junior High School, and Kerrigan said he hopes to support the program with funds from the city’s U.S. bailout as well as the county of Trumbull.

As for the third challenge, affordability, Boyle encouraged residents who qualify to enroll in the Affordability Connectivity Program, which reduces monthly Internet bills by $30. “When you combine that with our existing Access from AT&T program, it comes down to free internet,” she said.

Under the Connectivity Program, families of four earning up to $54,000 per year are eligible for the reduction.
Residents can find out if AT&T Fiber is available in their home or sign up to receive an alert when it’s available by visiting att.com/notifyme.

Pictured, from left: Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown: Communications Workers of America District 4 Staff Representative Ron Gay; AT&T Ohio State Chair Molly Kocour Boyle; Patrick Kerrigan, Executive Director, Oak Hill Collaborative; Christopher Wyche, director of external affairs, AT&T; Guy Coviello, President and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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