Comcast said Wednesday that it would invest $1 billion over the next ten years in its Internet Essentials program, the high-speed data service targeted at low-income households in its service footprint, to help further narrow the digital divide.
Comcast started Internet Essentials in 2011 and in the past decade has connected a cumulative total of 10 million people to broadband service. In a press release, the company said its $1 billion commitment will include additional support for its Lift Zone initiative, which establishes WiFi-connected safe spaces in more than 1,000 community centers across the country by the end of the year; 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.
“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said in a press release. “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.”
Comcast estimated that its new investment commitment will impact more than 50 million people over the next 10 years. In 2021, the company said students 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.
“For more than a decade, Comcast has been a leader in working with communities to close the Digital Divide through its Internet Essentials program,” National Urban League CEO Marc H. Morial said in a press release. “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.”
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:
“Last year, we partnered with Comcast on a major campaign to encourage Americans to participate in the first-ever digital census,” Fair Count CEO Rebecca DeHart said in a press release. “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. 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.”
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 increasing speeds to 50 Mbps downstream without changing the program’s $9.95 per 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.
“For a decade Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has provided Latino families with tools and resources to access high speed Internet at home. Hispanic Federation has been proud to partner with Comcast and work with this program to bridge the digital divide and offer Latino communities the opportunity to access health, educational, and economic resources online,” Hispanic Federation Senior Vice President Brent Wilkes said in a press release. “We look forward to the next ten years of partnership with Comcast as we tackle more challenges in our ever-changing digital world.”
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