More than 100,000 Families or 400,000 Low-Income Americans Have Signed Up Nationally;
Initiative Provides Internet Service, Affordable Computers and Digital Literacy Training to Families
As we posted earlier today, we’re in Burien today to launch year 2 of the groundbreaking Internet Essentials program. Here’s the formal news release, with comments from people here today:
Comcast/NBC Universal President Kyle McSlarrow joined today with state, local and school district officials as well as special guest SpongeBob SquarePants at Seahurst Elementary School to announce year two of Internet Essentials, an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program designed to help close the digital divide for low-income Americans. In its first full year of availability, more than 100,000 families or 400,000 Americans are now online, including nearly 5,000 Washington families or almost 20,000 state residents. Comcast continues to enhance the program with new features and processes designed to accelerate enrollment in the program.
“Price can be a major barrier to engaging Washington’s families in the state’s growing digital economy. Programs like Comcast’s Internet Essentials can make that first step possible, bringing broadband into the home,” said Will Saunders, Broadband Policy and Programs Director, Washington State Broadband Office.
Susan Enfield, Highline Schools Superintendent, said: “We are grateful that through this program more of our students and families will have access to the Internet. The web is an essential tool for learning and communicating in today’s world. Internet access will help our students be successful in school and prepare them for college and the workplace.”
Kyle McSlarrow, Comcast/NBC Universal President said, “I want to congratulate Mr. Saunders, Dr. Enfield and Burien Mayor Brian Bennett for helping to make Internet Essentials such a resounding success here in Washington State. We are proud to work with you to help lower the barriers to broadband access and make the endless resources of the Internet available to more families in Washington State.”
All of the officials were at Seahurst Elementary to take part in a special Internet Essentials open house event to kick off the second year of the broadband adoption program. They joined with special guest SpongeBob SquarePants who was on hand to meet children from the Highline School District.
Comcast representatives as well as representatives from Goodwill and Neighborhood House, two of the company’s many nonprofit partners, were on hand to meet with families and answer questions about their programs.
New in 2012:
Since Internet Essentials launched, 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. This means nearly 300,000 additional households are now eligible for the program, bringing the total to 2.3 million eligible families;
- 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, including offering a series of short videos, featuring NBC and Telemundo news personalities Al Roker, Kate Snow, Jenna Wolfe and Jose Diaz-Balart, discussing how to use job search tools and social networking site as well as tips for what parents should know about cyber bullying;
- Streamlined the approval process by providing an instant approval process for all students who attend schools with the highest percentage of 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.
Internet Essentials Program Details:
Internet Essentials addresses three primary barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified – a lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful, the cost of a home computer and the cost of the Internet service. Program participants receive:
- Residential Internet service for $9.95 a month plus applicable taxes;
- No price increases, no activation fees, or equipment rental fees;
- A voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax; and
- Access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.
A household is eligible to participate if it meets all of the following criteria:
- Is located where Comcast offers Internet service;
- Has at least one child who is eligible to receive a free or reduced school lunch under the NSLP;
- Has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days;
- Does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program for at least three years, through the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Any household that qualifies during this three-year period will remain eligible for Internet Essentials if at least one child eligible for a free or reduced lunch remains living in the household.
In Washington, Comcast is working with a growing network of community-based organizations to spread the word about Internet Essentials and provide digital literacy training. Those organizations include El Centro de la Raza, Neighborhood House, New Futures and Tacoma Urban League among others.
For general information about Internet Essentials, please visit www.internetessentials.com for English and visit www.internetbasico.com for Spanish. Educators or third-parties interested in helping to spread the word can find more information at www.internetessentials.com/partner. Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.