Thursday, May 13, 2021

Comcast commits to investing $1 billion to reach 50 million low-income Americans with tools and resources to succeed in digital world

On the 10th anniversary of its Internet Essentials program, Comcast announced it would invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to help further close the digital divide and give even more low-income Americans the tools and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

The announcement coincides with the release of a 10-year Progress Report showing that, since 2011, the company, working in collaboration with its network of thousands of nonprofit partners, has connected a cumulative total of more than 10 million people in America to broadband Internet at home, the overwhelming majority of whom were not connected prior to signing up.

Comcast’s $1 billion commitment will include investments in a number of critical areas, including: additional support for its ongoing Lift Zone initiative, which establishes Wi-Fi-connected safe spaces in 1,000+ community centers nationwide for students and adults by the end of 2021; new laptop and computer donations; grants for nonprofit community organizations to create opportunities for low-income Americans, particularly in media, technology, and entrepreneurship; and continued investment in the company’s landmark Internet Essentials program.
It is estimated that these new commitments will impact as many as 50 million Americans over the next 10 years. In 2021 alone, Comcast estimates students will be able to complete more than 25 million hours of remote learning lessons to further address the “homework gap” at the hundreds of Lift Zone locations that have already opened or will open soon.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials Partnership Program has signed up hundreds of schools, school districts, and other organizations that have come together to help connect tens of thousands of students to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo via NNPA)

“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” said Dave Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable. “Together, we have been able to connect millions of people to the power of the Internet at home, and to the endless opportunity, education, growth, and discovery it provides.

Today, we are rededicating ourselves to this mission to ensure that the next generation of students in America has the tools, resources, and abilities they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.”

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“For more than a decade, Comcast has been a leader in working with communities to close the Digital Divide through its Internet Essentials program,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “From its beginning as a pilot program with the Wilmington Urban League to today, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has transformed millions of lives by connecting low-income households to the power of broadband.
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic placed a spotlight on the digital divide, for the past decade Comcast, in partnership with organizations like the National Urban League, has been leading the effort to close the digital divide, address the homework gap, and ensure low-income communities have the necessary digital skills.”
“Last year, we partnered with Comcast on a major campaign to encourage Americans to participate in the first-ever digital census,” added Rebecca DeHart, CEO, Fair Count. “We are so proud to have partnered with Comcast on this valuable work—connectivity is incredibly essential to civic participation. It gives communities a voice and it enables individuals to take part in the cultural conversations that need to take place in this country.

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Broadband adoption, just like census participation, can mean the difference between communities growing and thriving or being left behind. For the past decade, the Internet Essentials program has successfully helped to narrow these digital divides. We look forward to the next 10 years of Internet Essentials and join Comcast in celebrating this significant achievement.”
“Unidos US is proud to have partnered with Comcast for the past 10 years,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, UNIDOS. “Our vision is and always has been an America where economic, political, and social advancement are realities for all Latinos. Comcast has been a vital partner to bringing this vision to life. Through Internet Essentials, we’ve been able to connect our communities to the digital tools, skills development, and platforms on which all voices can be amplified. As we celebrate 10 years of the program, we look forward to our continued partnership with Comcast well into the future.”

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In addition to capturing the total number of connections Internet Essentials has provided, the 10-Year Progress Report also highlights other key metrics about the program, including having:
• Increased the program’s Internet speeds six times, from 1.5 Mbps in 2011 to 50 Mbps today, without ever increasing the price of the program, which has remained $9.95/month.
• Launched its Lift Zones program, which aims to connect more than 1,000 community centers with free Wi-Fi by the end of 2021.
• Developed an Internet Essentials Partnership Program that has signed up hundreds of schools, school districts, and other organizations that have come together to help connect tens of thousands of students to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Offered 60 days of free Internet service to any new Internet Essentials customer who needed to get online during the coronavirus outbreak.
• Expanded the number of languages our Internet Essentials call center agents can speak to more than 240, plus American Sign Language, to help ensure we break down language barriers that can prevent people from applying or getting online.
• Built up an online learning center that includes more than 200 digital literacy training videos, guides, and reports that are free to anyone to use, including non-customers.
• Developed an employee network of 3,000 Internet Essentials Ambassadors who volunteer their time to help spread the word about the program in their communities.

This new commitment comes on the heels of a series of initiatives announced during the COVID-19 pandemic that reinforced the company’s commitment to addressing the digital divide and the homework gap by upping speeds to 50 Mbps downstream without changing the program’s $9.95/month price. The company also continues to offer 60 days of free Internet service to new Internet Essentials customers who sign up before June 30, 2021.

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