Comcast’s Internet Essentials Program Reaches 1 Million Low-Income Americans

Comcast logo on a computer screen

By David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer in Community Investment

Today, I was honored to appear before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology.  In my testimony, I was proud to announce that in just over two years through our Internet Essentials program, Comcast has connected an estimated 1 million low-income Americans, or more than 250,000 families, to the Internet at home.  To put that in perspective, that’s more than the entire population of a city like San Francisco or a state like Delaware or Montana.

The Internet is a transformative technology that has the potential to level the playing field by equalizing access to education, employment, healthcare and many other aspects of life such as news, information and entertainment. Unfortunately, about 30 percent of Americans don’t have broadband Internet at home.

We live in a highly competitive digital world, one where in-home broadband Internet and digital literacy can be game changers.  For instance, 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept job applications online, and a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 79 percent of students are regularly asked by teachers to access and download assignments from online sites. Also, based on a survey of Internet Essentials customers, 98 percent say their kids use the Internet for homework, and 59 percent feel that the Internet helped someone in their household find a job.

There are a lot of other statistics about the power of the Internet, but nothing validates this more than the stories of the very families who have enrolled in Internet Essentials.

In Connecticut, Melissa, a single mother with a teenage daughter and 4-year-old son, couldn’t afford home broadband Internet, and the local library only allowed computer use for one hour per visit. Her daughter was receiving poor grades, and to help her improve, she was offered an online curriculum. After signing up for Internet Essentials, her teachers immediately noticed a turnaround. Her grades got better, and she even began turning in extra credit. Now, she is teaching her mom and her little brother how to use the Internet, and they are spending time learning online together. Melissa’s son is using online education sites like PBS Kids Sprout and Sesame Street, and Melissa herself has used the Internet to search for jobs, write her first resume and start her first email account.

Similar to Melissa, Lawanna and her family in Tennessee used to rely on public Internet service; they would drive to a local McDonalds or coffee shop to use their free WiFi. Internet Essentials has changed their lives. Lawanna’s 12-year-old daughter, an aspiring engineer, completes all of her school assignments online. Lawanna herself just graduated as a registered nurse, after using the Internet to complete her coursework and collaborate online with her classmates. Also,her husband is now pursuing a finance degree online from the University of Phoenix, and they are now using the web for banking and finding healthcare resources. They are improving the quality of life for themselves and their children.

Another inspirational story comes from a family in Washington, D.C., originally from El Salvador. Rena works at a local coffee shop.  For years, she brought her kids to work every day at 5 they could use the free WiFi to do their homework while she got ready for the morning rush. Two years ago, Rena signed up for Internet Essentials. Today, her kids can do all of their homework from the comfort of their own home after school, instead of at the crack of dawn, and they are successful rising academic stars. Rena’s daughter is on a full high school scholarship and is applying for college, while her son, who is also on a full high school scholarship, won the City Science Fair the past two years in a row.

These are just a few of the stories I have heard.  There are many more families and they motivate all of us at Comcast to keep spreading the word.

We could not have reached this milestone without the support of thousands of educational associations, faith-based communities, local libraries, and community partners including: the National Urban League, Easter Seals, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens,NAACP and many others.

We also could not have done this without the enthusiastic participation of elected officials nationwide including members of the Subcommittee.  We could not have done this without former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski,current FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and the other FCC Commissioners, in addition to Super Bowl-winning Coach Tony Dungy, and leading superintendents like Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite, Albuquerque Superintendent Winston Brooks, and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.All have been, and continue to be, avid supporters of Internet Essentials and closing the digital divide.

Working together, we have made significant progress to close the digital divide, however, there is still much more work to be done. The issue of broadband adoption is a priority for both Comcast and me personally, and we will continue to work to improve and expand Internet Essentials and ensure that no American is left behind as we move forward in this increasingly digital world.

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