Comcast said it has expanded its Internet Essentials program to include federal Pell Grant recipients and pledged to invest $15 million in free internet service and equipment, including 25,000 laptop computers, to low income students, seniors, veterans and adults.
The Philadelphia-based MSO launched Internet Essentials in 2011, and so far the program, which targets low-income families, has helped more than 10 million people connect to broadband at home. The expansion is part of Comcast’s Project UP, the company’s $1 billion initiative to reach 50 million people with the tools, resources and skills needed for success in the digital world.
As the pandemic has highlighted the need for reliable broadband connections to the home, Comcast said research shows how lower income families are faced with unique adoption challenges such as housing insecurity, literacy challenges, language barriers, and broadband relevancy issues. Comcast said its digital equity efforts have been designed to address as many of these challenges as possible, including offering low-cost broadband Internet at home; the option to purchase a heavily subsidized, affordable computer; access to free WiFi in community centers nationwide; and numerous options to acquire the digital skills necessary to navigate distance learning and use the internet.
The 25,000 laptops will be donated to low-income students, seniors, veterans and adults in cities nationwide, such as Houston, Texas; Sacramento, California; Seattle; Philadelphia; Hartford, Connecticut; Baltimore; Memphis, Tennessee; Atlanta; Detroit; Chicago; Jacksonville, Florida; Minneapolis; Oakland; Boston; Pittsburgh; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Digital equity is key to success in education and economic mobility, now and into the future,” Comcast executive VP of public policy and digital equity Broderick Johnson said in a statement. “As our economic, medical, and educational systems become increasingly digital, it’s more important than ever that every American gets online. For those young people pursuing higher education, the expansion of IE eligibility to Pell Grant recipients is a real boost. Through the announcements we are making today, we will help support the development of a workforce that has the digital skills necessary to adapt to rapid shifts in a fast-evolving economy.”
Making the Internet Essentials program available to Pell Grant recipients in its service territory enables students to stay connected as they continue to pursue degrees at colleges, universities, and technical schools. The Federal Pell Grant program, established in 1965, is the largest source of federal grant aid for students pursuing a post-secondary education.
“One thing this pandemic has taught us is the necessity of digital access for all students,” Council for Opportunity in Education president Maureen Hoyler said in a statement. “By expanding eligibility to include Pell Grant recipients, Internet Essentials has taken an important step towards helping low-income college students realize their postsecondary goals.”
Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.
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