WASHINGTON, September 25, 2013 – Comcast has connected more than 220,000 families to broadband service through its low-income Internet Essentials program during the first two years of the program, the cable giant said Tuesday.
“Compared to a year ago we have more than doubled the number of families here in the D.C. area who are now able to complete school assignments, access government resources, apply for jobs and scholarships and pay bills at home,” said David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast. The company said that, of the 220,000 families nation-wide, more than 5,000 are in the Washington metropolitan area.
The Internet Essentials program by Comcast has kick-started a national debate about effective ways to promotion the adoption and use of broadband technology to low-income individuals. Comcast offers $9.95/month discounted internet service, free online training, and the opportunity to purchase a computer for $150 to the families of individuals that qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches.
Comcast officials have said previously that they will continue to support the subsidized broadband connections for as long as households have children through high school. Nonetheless, the company is entering into the third and final year of its commitment to the program.
At an event in Washington, Comcast also announced that it had partnered with DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Cohen was also joined by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who also lauded the program
“Broadband is fast becoming an essential part of our commercial and civic life,” said Rosenworcel. “That is why the work of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and Comcast’s Internet Essentials program is so important. By helping students and their families get online, they enhance opportunity, strengthen communities, and help kids in school develop the skills necessary for the digital age.”
In addition to re-launching Internet Essentials in the Washington, D.C. area, Comcast and Digital Promise announced a partnership to help increase digital literacy and connect more families to the internet in the Kenilworth-Parkside neighborhood in the Northeast section of the District.
As part of the partnership, 300 families with children who attend Neval Thomas Elementary School, the Parkside Campus of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Educare of Washington will receive a free computer upon enrollment in the Internet Essentials program. In addition, Comcast will sponsor five digital literacy training courses focusing on broadband basics, finding and applying for jobs and online safety.
“The partnership between Comcast and the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative does more than create greater learning opportunities for the children and families of Kenilworth-Parkside, it serves as a model for the rest of the nation about the role and impact the business community can have,” said Alma Powell, Chair of America’s Promise Alliance and Honorary Chair of DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
“It is initiatives like this, and through the collaboration of nonprofit organizations, educators, community and civic leaders, businesses and families, that we can make real and significant progress in this work to help more children succeed,” said Powell.
The Promise Neighborhood Initiative was selected by the Education Department to develop a “cradle-to-career” pipeline of support for children in the Kenilworth-Parkside community. Kenilworth-Parkside is one of 57 neighborhood promise neighborhoods.
“The Internet has become a critical educational tool and Internet Essentials expands access to children regardless of their socioeconomic situation,” said Washington Mayor Vincent Gray.
Nationwide, Comcast said that it has distributed more than 18,000 subsidized computers; trained nearly 20,000 people; publicized the program in more than 4,000 school districts and more than 30,000 schools; broadcast nearly 2 million public service announcements and partnered with nearly 7,000 community based organizations, agencies, and officials nationwide to help spread the word about the program.
Background Regarding 2013 Internet Essentials Program:
To increase enrollment and continue to help close the digital divide in America, Comcast continues to enhance Internet Essentials. This year the company has:
- Increased Speed - For the second time in two years, Comcast has increased its broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers to up to 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
- Streamlined Enrollment – Comcast has further streamlined the enrollment process by expanding the instant approval process for families whose students attend schools where 70 percent or more of the students are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
- Expanded Eligibility – Comcast has expanded program eligibility criteria for the second time, to include parochial, private, cyberschool, and homeschooled students. Now, nearly 2.6 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.
- Created an Online Application Tool – On InternetEssentials.com and InternetBasico.com, it is now easier and faster for a family to apply for Internet Essentials. This convenient online request form is available in English and Spanish and can be accessed through any Internet-enabled computer, tablet, or smartphone. It can be used by families on computers at community centers, local libraries or at a friend’s to request an application.
- Introduced Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards – Community partners are now able to help connect low-income families to the Internet by purchasing Opportunity Cards that can be used toward the cost of paying for Internet Essentials service.