Bibb promises ambitious long-term broadband strategy for Cleveland using federal dollars, May 23

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Next month, the City of Cleveland expects to unveil a plan aimed at making America’s least-connected large city competitive in the digital age for decades to come.

In an interview with, Mayor Justin Bibb promised an ambitious, two-pronged strategy to fund major infrastructure improvements using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars that will be announced in more detail next month.

The “first phase is on making sure on the short-term basis we connect as many families as we can to high-speed broadband, and the second phase will consist of making sure we lay fiber all across the city so we can be competitive, not just five years from now, but 20, 30 years from now, as a city and as a region,” Bibb said.

Laying fiber optic cables is more ambitious – and expensive – than other approaches, such as Cuyahoga County’s plan. The county’s $19.4 million plan, which received unanimous approval from the community development committee earlier this month on Monday, uses existing fiber optic networks to provide wireless internet access to under-connected parts of the county. The county aims to connect 20,000 houses and 5,000 apartments.

The cost of installing fiber optic cables varies based on labor costs, the quality of fiber optic cable, existing transportation and fiber optic infrastructure and more, according to Industry sources, however, suggest that cost could reach as high as tens of thousands of dollars per square mile.

For an individual homeowner to hook up broadband to their homes, it can cost thousands of dollars, and even more for people living in rural areas.

Clevelanders have waited months for details on the city’s plan to set aside $20 million in ARPA funds for broadband expansion. When Cleveland City Council approved the $20 expenditure of taxpayer money in September 2021, there was little discussion, no mention of a deadline nor vendor, and approval followed council held just a single committee meeting hours before the vote to approve meeting. reported previously.

Bibb himself even criticized the September proposal – which was put forth by his then-opponent for mayor Kevin Kelley – as “political grandstanding,” reported.

But next month, when Bibb said Cleveland plans to issue a request for proposals on the project, the document could shed light on the scope, goals and methods of the previously mysterious project.