Internet access has become essential for success at school, at work and at home, and for daily communications. For many Utahns, using the Internet is a routine activity that’s often taken for granted, but for others, it’s still not a reality.
Ray Child, from Comcast, explains what they are doing to bridge the Digital Divide.
And while a majority of America has become a digital nation, some Utahns still remain on the wrong side of the digital divide because they don’t have a PC and Internet service at home. As a result, they face profound disadvantages in getting a quality education, strengthening their job skills, obtaining news, or accessing the kind of health, education and financial information that is essential to improving the quality of their lives.
About 30% of Americans – many of whom are living near or below the poverty line -are without broadband access at home. To help close this digital divide, Comcast provides a public service program called Internet Essentials. Experts have identified three primary barriers to broadband adoption: a lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful to one’s daily life, the cost of a home computer and the cost of Internet service. Internet Essentials is an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program designed to address these barriers head on.
The program provides low income families, those with children eligible to receive free and reduced-price school lunches under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), with low cost Internet access for $9.95 a month, a voucher to buy a low-cost computer and digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.
Internet Essentials: New in 2012
Since Internet Essentials launched in late 2011, Comcast has made a number of program enhancements including:
· Expanded eligibility criteria to include families with children eligible to receive reduced price school lunches under the National School Lunch Program, in addition to eligibility for children who receive free lunch in the National School Lunch Program;
· Doubled broadband speeds to up to 3 Mbps downstream and up to 768 Kbps upstream;
· Upgraded the free Internet safety software to include the Constant Guard Protection Suite, which includes top-rated Norton Security Suite, identity theft protection and more;
· Enriched digital literacy training efforts both online and in-person;
· Streamlined the approval process by providing an instant approval process for all students who attend schools with the highest percentage of National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation, which includes Provision 2 schools;
· Introduced a bulk order program that empowers community-based organizations to purchase Internet Essentials accounts so they can connect the eligible families they serve.
Comcast’s goal is to help try to close the digital divide and help level the playing field for low income families by connecting students online with their teachers and their school’s educational resources, by enabling parents to apply for jobs online or for families to use the Internet to learn more about healthcare and government services available where they live. However, in order for a program like this to be successful and make a difference for many families, it requires continued support.
Comcast is asking for help from parents, educators, community leaders and government officials to join in this effort, so that those who are eligible can get connected to the Internet, get a computer and receive training. For general information about Internet Essentials, visit: www.internetessentials.com (for English) or visit www.internetbasico.com (for Spanish). Educators and third-parties interested in more information should visit www.internetessentials.com/partner. Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.