Comcast Commits to Eliminating Digital Divide

Students, Families Benefit from Low-Cost Broadband Service

D. Kevin McNeir | 8/20/2014, 2 p.m.
As broadband service providers in the U.S. roll out more affordable programs, navigating the digital divide may become just a ...
Learning via the Internet can be a real family affair, as evidenced by this young child and her mother. (Courtesy of Comcast)

Minority students, low-income families and even job-seekers continue to learn that without access to information and communication tools such as the Internet, their chances for success can be daunting.

But as broadband service providers in the U.S. roll out more affordable programs, it appears that navigating the digital divide may become just a little easier.

“Learning how to use the Internet is no different than getting started with any new tool or resource,” said Donna Rattley Washington, Comcast regional vice president of government and community affairs, Beltway Region, Largo, Maryland. “Through Internet Essentials, we offer multiple options for digital literacy training in print, online and in person, to learn skills that help with searching for jobs, finding health care services, accessing educational resources and staying connected to family and friends.”

In 2011, Comcast launched Internet Essentials – a broadband adoption program that since its inception has connected more than 350,000 families, or about 1.4 million low-income Americans, to the power and possibilities of the Internet. Citizens in 39 states and the District now benefit from the program.

Students that receive a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program can automatically apply for Internet Essentials. The broadband service costs $9.95 per month. Comcast also includes an option by which families may purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150.

“Internet Essentials is about transforming lives and inspiring a new generation of leaders to be digitally ready to access the information and tools all students need to succeed in the 21st century,” said David L. Cohen, Comcast executive vice president.

The term “digital divide” refers to the gap or discrepancy between people with access to digital devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones and those without. The divide often impacts the level of an individual’s skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and can exist between those living in rural and urban areas, between the educated and uneducated, between economic classes and on a global scale between more and less industrially developed nations.

Comcast recently decided to extend its three-year program while at the same time adding yet another way for families who have been locked out from technological advances to bring the Internet into their homes.

The program could prove invaluable to millions of children in the U.S. particularly this fall when, for the first time, American public schools are projected to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites. Still, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while the nation’s population becomes more diverse, schools are becoming more racially divided, reflecting U.S. housing patterns. The disparities are even evident in the youngest of black, Hispanic and Native American children who on average enter kindergarten academically behind their white and Asian peers.

“We announced the indefinite extension of Internet Essentials earlier this year because we believe every household in America should have access to the Internet,” Washington said. “New families who have not yet applied for [the program] and are approved between Aug. 4 and Sept. 20 will receive up to six months of complimentary Internet service.”

In addition, Comcast has instituted an amnesty program for customers who have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old and are now eligible for the broadband service.

Washington said families in the District have taken full advantage of the Internet Essentials program.

“Since 2011, we have connected more than 8,100 Washington, D.C. market families or about 32,700 low-income residents to the Internet at home,” Washington said. “With students increasingly relying on the Internet to complete schoolwork and many companies only accepting online applications, children need to be digitally ready.”

To learn more or to apply, call 855-846-8376 or go to www.InternetEssentials.com.