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Broadband's Impact

Comcast Connects More Than 220,000 Families Through Internet Essentials Program, Touts Accomplishments at Event with FCC Commissioner

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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.

 

 

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Health

Ask Me Anything! Friday with Craig Settles, Community Telehealth Pioneer at 2:30 p.m. ET

Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Craig’s tireless work has helped transform the last mile of broadband in the U.S., through his influence among national, state, and corporate decision makers, and his on-the-ground work building community broadband coalitions. Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will interview Craig Settles in this Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything!

Read the Broadband.Money profile of Craig Settles

About Our Distinguished Guest

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles pays it forward by uniting community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders through telehealth projects that transform healthcare delivery.

Mr. Settles conducts needs analyses with community stakeholders who want broadband networks and/or telehealth to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. Mr. Settles’ needs analyses opens up additional opportunities to raise money for networks, as well as increase the financial sustainability of your network. He’s been doing this work since 2006.

A community telehealth champion

Mr. Settles views telehealth as the “Killer App” that can close the digital divide because everyone experiences illness or cares for someone who is ill. Every home that telehealth touches must have good broadband. Telehealth technology and broadband in the home provide avenues for other home-based technology services that can improve quality of life, such as companion distance-learning apps, a home business app, and home entertainment apps.

He authored Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless in 2005, and since then, Mr. Settles has provided community broadband consulting services. His public-sector client list includes Ottumwa, IA, Riverside, Benicia and Glendale, CA and the State of California. Calix, Ciena and Juniper Networks are among those on his private sector client list. In addition, he has testified for the FCC and on Capital Hill.

Craig around the web

Mr. Settles hosts the radio talk show Gigabit Nation, His in-depth analysis reports are valuable resources for community broadband project teams and stakeholders. Building the Gigabit City, Mr. Settles’ blog, further showcases his expertise in this area.

Follow Mr. Settles on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Mr. Settles is frequently called upon as a municipal broadband expert for journalists at CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine and a host of business, technology and local media outlets. He has spoken at various conferences in the U.S, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia.


About Ask Me Anything! (AMA)

AMA invites broadband industry leaders from all corners to share their knowledge and perspectives with our community.

The format is simple:

  1. A one hour live webinar with our distinguished guest
  2. Interactive questions from attendees in the comments below this post
    • See a question you also wonder about? “Like” it to upvote it
    • Have more questions? Add them as comments to this post.
  3. Our guest will answer as many questions as time permits, in order of upvotes
    • A community moderator will paraphrase our guest’s answers and post as reply
    • Want to weigh in with your perspective? You’re welcome to share your replies!

Please be respectful of our distinguished guest. It’s okay to disagree, but thank you for being kind. Trolls will be banned.

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Broadband's Impact

Julio Fuentes: Access Delayed Was Access Denied to the Poorest Americans

Big Telecom companies caused months and months of delays in the rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Remember when millions of students in dense urban areas and less-populated rural areas weren’t dependent on home broadband access so they could attend school?

Remember when we didn’t need telehealth appointments, and broadband access in urban and outlying areas was an issue that could be dealt with another day?

Remember when the capability to work remotely in underserved communities wasn’t the difference between keeping a job and losing it?

Not anymore.

Education. Health care. Employment. The COVID-19 pandemic affected them all, and taking care of a family in every respect required broadband access and technology to get through large stretches of the pandemic.

You’d think the Federal Communications Commission and its then-acting chairwoman would have pulled out all the stops to make sure that this type of service was available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible — especially when there’s a targeted federally funded program for that important purpose.

Alas, by all appearances, some Big Telecom companies threw their weight around and caused months and months of delays, denying this life-changing access to the people who needed it most — at the time they needed it most.

The program in question is the federally funded Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The EBB offered eligible households — often the poorest Americans — a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and those households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer if they contribute just $10 to the purchase. Huge value and benefits for technology that should no longer be the privilege of only those with resources.

Seems fairly straightforward, right?

It should have been. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel slammed on the brakes. Why? It turns out that Big Telecom giants wanted more time to get ready to grab a piece of the action — a lot more time. While the program was ready to go in February, it didn’t actually launch until several months later.

That’s months of unnecessary delay.

But it wasn’t providers who were waiting. It was Americans in underserved and rural areas, desperate for a connection to the world.

Here are some numbers for Rosenworcel to consider:

  • As recently as March, 58% of white elementary students were enrolled for full-time in-person instruction, while only 36% of Black students, 35% of Latino students, and 18% of Asian peers were able to attend school in person.
  • Greater portions of families of color and low-income families reportedly fell out of contact with their children’s schools during the pandemic. In one national survey in spring 2020, nearly 30% of principals from schools serving “large populations of students of color and students from lower-income households” said they had difficulty reaching some of their students and/or families — in contrast to the 14% of principals who said the same in wealthier, predominantly white schools.
  • In fall 2020, only 61% of households with income under $25,000 reported that the internet was “always available” for their children to use for educational purposes; this share was 86% among households with incomes above $75,000.

And all of these numbers cut across other key issues such as health care and maintaining employment.

Access delayed was access denied to the poorest, most isolated Americans during the worst pandemic in generations.

Allowing Big Telecom companies to get their ducks in a row (and soak up as many federal dollars as possible) left poor and rural Americans with no options, for months. Who knows how many children went without school instruction? Or how many illnesses went undiagnosed? Or how many jobs were terminated?

This delay was appalling, and Chairwoman Rosenworcel should have to answer for her actions to the Senate Commerce Committee as it considers her nomination for another term as commissioner. Rather than expedite important help to people who needed it most, she led the agency’s delay — for the benefit of giant providers, not the public.

Hopefully, the committee moves with more dispatch than she did in considering her actual fitness to be FCC chairwoman for another term.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Education

Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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