August 29, 2016
by Francesca Duffy
It all started five years ago this very month in Chicago when Comcast connected the first low-income families to the internet through the launch of the Internet Essentials program. Fast forward to 2016, and Internet Essentials has spread to many cities across the United States and brought 750,000 low-income households on board, according to their five-year progress report released last week. That’s three million more individuals armed with the power of the internet and its ability to improve lives and open up new economic opportunities.
A survey of Internet Essentials customers reports that 95 percent of recipients saw a positive impact on a child’s grades and 51 percent said the program helped someone in their family find a job.
While the statistics in Comcast’s progress report demonstrate the strides made in closing the digital divide since the start of Internet Essentials, the report also includes information on the efforts and work being done to encourage and improve digital literacy among the program’s customer base. Comcast has invested $300 million in digital literacy initiatives. Schools, community based-organizations, businesses, parents and government officials alike have collaborated over the years to provide the tools and resources necessary for low-income families to overcome the skills gap and make the most of the Internet. In five years, that work has reached 4.4 million individuals who now have the training they need to be a part of our digital society. And just recently, Comcast announced that it will give an additional $2 million in grants to community-based organizations across the country dedicated to providing digital literacy training to low-income families.
Since the program’s inception in 2011, Comcast has also increased eligibility for Internet Essentials nine times. The biggest expansion came just last month, when families who qualify as public housing residents and assisted residents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development became eligible for the program. This marked a huge policy change in the program as families without school-aged children, such as veterans and senior citizens who often face their own financial and physical challenges, can now apply.
From finding a job to completing a high school homework assignment to paying the bills to researching medical information, participation in the Internet Essentials program has helped millions of families and individuals in various aspects of their lives, and it’s taken the help of many. As Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast David Cohen said, “In the last five years, we’ve learned that no single company or government program is ever going to fix the digital divide and that solving a big, difficult societal issue like this takes nothing short of a movement.” It’s a movement that has big goals still ahead, but that has taken great strides in the last several years and will continue to do its part in helping low-income families thrive in today’s competitive and digitally-centric workforce.
For more info on Internet Essentials, visit our page dedicated to closing the digital divide.