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City of Cleveland Releases “Phase I” RFP to Close Digital Divide


Thursday, June 30, 2022 – Cleveland – Mayor Justin M. Bibb and Cleveland City Council are fully committed to a robust digital equity agenda and to addressing the City’s digital divide. Together, they are excited to share today that the City of Cleveland is posting a Request for Proposal (RFP) focused on digital adoption and affordable access services for Cleveland residents.  

“Internet access is not a luxury—it is a necessity,” said Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “But too many Clevelanders lack the support they need to effectively engage online.”  

A strategic priority in Mayor Bibb’s Rescue & Transformation Plan—a roadmap for investing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars in the City of Cleveland—this RFP seeks partners to address Clevelanders’ immediate needs: every Cleveland resident should have the opportunity to receive the education, training, skills, devices, and support they need to engage effectively online; and every home in the City should have access to a high-quality and affordable internet connection. 

“Almost thirty percent of residents don’t have internet services of any kind—and almost twenty percent only have internet through their phone,” Mayor Bibb added. “We’re committed to making targeted investments to close this digital divide and make internet access more affordable and accessible.” 

The City is entirely non-prescriptive on how its residents should receive guaranteed access to digital adoption services and an affordable broadband plan. Internet service plans might be delivered through existing infrastructure or through new deployments. Digital adoption services might be provided by one entity blanketing the city or by a network of small groups working with specific neighborhoods or populations.  

“Our priority is increasing the number of Cleveland residents who have a home internet subscription and all the tools they need to use it,” said Cleveland City Council President Blaine A. Griffin. “This is a top issue for council to ensure our residents are connected.”   

Last year, Council budgeted $20 million in ARPA funding for the City’s broadband initiatives.

With that in mind, the RFP calls for a single affordable broadband plan to be available to all Clevelanders. While digital adoption services may come from a single provider or multiple different providers across the City, the RFP also calls for all Clevelanders to have access to a standard level of adoption services. 

And as Cleveland builds toward the future, the City recognizes that residents’ ability to fully participate in the 21st century will require ubiquitous fiber-optic infrastructure and the widespread deployment of Smart City technology. Universal fiber access, in particular, will be a crucial facet of both digital equity and business development as bandwidth demands continue to climb. 

This “Phase I” RFP carefully focuses on the major needs of today—digital adoption and affordable access—but the work that results from this RFP will leave the City in a strong position to reach those next-step “Phase II” goals. 

The RFP can be accessed here. Responses are due August 8, 2022.