Comcast’s Internet Essentials—Closing the Digital Divide
By Hannah Smith, CSG Development Associate
In the age of information—where everything is “e” centered and tools like email, social media and blogs have become entwined into Americans’ everyday lives—a significant portion of the nation’s population is in the dark when it comes to Internet and computer literacy.
There is a major digital divide in the United States, where about 30 percent of residents do not have Internet access or a computer at home. The majority of this population lives near or below the national poverty line.
To tackle this problem of digital division, American cable, Internet and telephone service provider Comcast has created a program, Internet Essentials. The program aims to bring the Internet to families with students receiving a free school lunch through the National School Lunch Program by providing affordable broadband service, the option to purchase a full-service, Internet-ready computer and free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.
Comcast has worked with federal, state and local officials to bring this program to fruition. The program uses free and reduced lunch programs as one avenue to find students and families without computer and Internet access.
In Colorado alone, Internet Essentials was made available to more than 220,000 children and their families on the National School Lunch Program in the Comcast service area. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper acknowledged the need for Internet access and its correlation to statewide financial improvement.
“One of our top priorities is to help spur economic growth in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a Comcast report released in January. “These efforts include supporting increased Internet access in Colorado communities and finding new ways to harness the educational power of the Web. Internet access is essential to helping Colorado’s economy grow and thrive.”
Through Internet Essentials, more children in Colorado and their families now have access to information that will advance both their academic and communication skills. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, also an adamant supporter of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, said the program not only helps students directly "but will also provide valuable resources to their entire families and will move us one step closer to developing a 21st-century workforce,” according to the Comcast report.
Comcast has seen substantial results since the program’s launch in August 2011. David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast, praised its success.
“We are pleased and gratified that 86 percent of Internet Essentials customers surveyed are highly satisfied with the product, and 99 percent of these surveyed customers would recommend Internet Essentials to others,” he said in the report.
Comcast has made this program available to customers where they provide service in 39 states and the District of Columbia; in 4,000 school districts; and to more than 7 million students on the National School Lunch Program.
For more information on Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, visit InternetEssentials.com.