For many Utahns who have internet access (or are connected), living without the Internet for one day is difficult to imagine. For Utahns who are not yet online, the economic, educational, health, and social benefits of being connected are lost. It is harder to keep up with schoolwork, harder to apply for a job, harder to claim tax credits.
Ray Child, with Comcast explains what Comcast is doing to help close the “digital divide” and make the internet available to more people.
About 30% of Americans – many of whom are living near or below the poverty line -are without broadband access at home. 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.
To help close this digital divide, Comcast provides a public service program called Internet Essentials. 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 is an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program designed to address these digital divide barriers head on.
Since the launch of Internet Essentials in August 2011, significant advances have been made in closing the digital divide. Here are some highlights:
· Internet Essentials has enrolled upwards of 50,000 new families every six months.
· Comcast has distributed more than 18,000 subsidized computers; trained nearly 20,000 people; publicized the program in more than 4,000 school districts and more than 30,000 schools; broadcast nearly 2 million public service announcements and partnered with nearly 7,000 community based organizations, agencies, and officials to help spread the word about the program.
· Reached new milestone with over 600,000 low-income Americans connected to the Internet, most for the first time in their lives.
· Increased Internet Adoption – connected more than 150,000 households to the power of the Internet. That’s more than children and their families.
· Strengthened School District Engagement – over 30,000 schools in 39 states and D.C. are supporting Internet Essentials efforts to close the digital divide.
· Expanded opportunities – more than 15,000 computers sold to Internet
· More expanded opportunities – more than 10,000 people have attended in-person digital literacy training to develop the skills they need to participate in today’s digital society and economy.
Here’s what’s new in 2013:
· Expanded Eligibility – Comcast has expanded program eligibility criteria for the second time, to include parochial, private, cyberschool, and homeschooled students. Now, nearly 2.6 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.
· Increased Speed – For the second time in two years, Comcast has increased its broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers up to 5 Mbps downstream and up to 1 Mbps upstream. On September 1st, Comcast will have more than tripled the download speeds for Internet Essentials customers since the program’s launch.
· Streamlined Enrollment – Comcast has further streamlined the enrollment process by expanding the instant approval process for families whose students attend schools where 70 percent or more of the students are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
· Created an Online Application Tool – On InternetEssentials.com and InternetBasico.com, it is now easier and faster for a family to apply for Internet Essentials. This convenient online request form is available in English and Spanish and can be accessed through any Internet-enabled computer, tablet, or smartphone. It can be used by families on computers at community centers, local libraries or at a friend’s to request an application.
· Introduced Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards – Our community partners are now able to help connect low-income families to the Internet by purchasing Opportunity Cards that can be used toward the cost of paying for Internet Essentials service.
Response and support of Internet Essentials continues to be strong. And, more help is needed. Comcast is asking for support 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
or www.internetbasico.com (in 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, in Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.