Today’s news about milestones in Internet Essentials, the program that brings low-cost broadband, is found on the Comcast corporate blog. But you may have noticed that there are local implications since Seattle is one of the pilot cities to embrace a public housing component. Here’s a local response from King County Housing Authority, whose units near the city of Seattle are eligible (in Skyway, Tukwila, Burien, SeaTac, and Shoreline):
“The King County Housing Authority is pleased to be partnering with Comcast as they expand their Internet Essentials pilot program to King County residents living in public housing,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Though the Internet has transformed our world, many low-income households do not have home access because of cost. Internet access is critical to help kids do well in school and gain the skills and knowledge critical to success in today’s economy. A stable Internet connection also helps adults find jobs, pay bills, and access services that improve their lives. We’re excited about the potential this program offers for helping low-income families bridge the digital divide.”
Here’s the formal announcement, headlines first, of course:
Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Announce Pilot Program to Close the Digital Divide for Public Housing Residents in Seattle, Miami, Nashville and Philadelphia
Since 2011, Internet Essentials has Connected 2.4 million Americans, or 600,000 low-income families, to the Internet at Home
More than 28,000 families in Washington State have been connected through Internet Essentials
Comcast today announced a pilot program with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) ConnectHome initiative to attack the digital divide for public housing residents. Eligibility for Internet Essentials, Comcast’s acclaimed, high-speed Internet adoption program, will be immediately extended to public housing residents in Miami-Dade County and the cities of Nashville, Philadelphia, and Seattle. This is the eighth time in five years Comcast has expanded eligibility for Internet Essentials.
Also today, Comcast announced its latest Internet Essentials milestones. In less than five years, the program has now connected more than 600,000 low-income families, benefitting more than 2.4 million Americans, to the Internet at home. In fact, 2015 was the program’s single most successful year ever, with a 30 percent increase in enrollments over 2014.
Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen and HUD Secretary Julián Castro made today’s announcements alongside Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado at Rainbow Village, a public housing development in Miami, Florida.
“Internet access at home is essential to succeed in today’s digital world on all fronts, from employment to education. Unfortunately, a cruel irony is at work, as the majority of low-income families, including those in public housing, who truly need the transformative power of the Internet are not connected,” said Cohen. “Comcast’s collaboration with ConnectHome will not only build a bridge for those living in public housing to cross the digital divide, but the Internet also gives them a ladder to educational and vocational resources that can improve the quality of their lives and help them claim their American dream.”
“ConnectHome is expanding opportunity for the next generation, preparing them for success in the 21st century,” said Castro. “We’re thankful to have Comcast join the ConnectHome initiative and our continued efforts to close the digital divide. Through their commitment and all of our great stakeholders, public and private, we’re leveling the playing field for public housing residents across the nation and opening doors to prosperity that otherwise would remain closed.”
Between 2009 and 2014, broadband service providers spent over $422 billion on capital investments, and three in four American households now use broadband at home. Despite this significant progress, one in four American households still don’t access the Internet at home, particularly lower-income families with children. While nearly two-thirds of America’s lowest-income households own a computer, less than half have a home Internet subscription. HUD’s ConnectHome initiative strives to ensure that students can access the same level of high-speed Internet at home that they possess in their classrooms.
Today’s announcement marks the eighth time in five years Comcast has expanded eligibility for the program, which underscores the company’s commitment to attacking the digital divide. Originally, Internet Essentials was offered to families with children eligible to receive a free school lunch from the National School Lunch Program. It was first expanded to children also eligible for the reduced price school lunch program. Comcast then expanded eligibility to include families with children in parochial, private, charter, and cyber schools, as well as students who are home schooled.
Last year, Comcast extended the program two more times, on a pilot basis, to low-income seniors and low-income community college students. In addition, Comcast has expanded the number of schools where every student in the school will be deemed eligible for the program so long as a certain percentage of the kids in that school are NSLP eligible – from 70 percent, to 50 percent, and now to 40 percent. As a result, Comcast estimates auto-enrollment now applies to about half of the 48,000 schools across its service area.
Internet Essentials includes high-speed Internet service with download speeds up to 10 Mbps, a free Wi-Fi router, access to free digital literacy training, and the option to purchase a computer for less than $150. Public housing residents in the four pilot markets (Miami-Dade County and the cities of Nashville, Philadelphia, Seattle) are eligible to apply, regardless of whether they have a child in the National School Lunch Program or not. To apply, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-847-3356.
Internet Essentials Key Investments:
Since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $280 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy training and education initiatives, reaching nearly 4.4 million people through national and local nonprofit community partners. Through the end of February 2016, Comcast has:
• Provided more than 47,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
• Distributed for free nearly 51 million Internet Essentials program materials.
• Broadcast more than 8.3 million public service announcements, valued at more than $100 million.
• Welcomed 5 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and its Online Learning Center.
• Fielded more than 3.9 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
• Made Internet Essentials available in nearly 48,000 schools in more than 5,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
• Partnered with 9,000 community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.
Building on the Obama Administration’s goal to expand high speed broadband to all Americans, in July 2015, President Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced, ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector are offering broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation. ConnectHome creates a platform to help ensure that students have access to high-speed Internet for studying and doing their homework at home, as well as in school.
About Internet Essentials
Internet Essentials from Comcast is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program. It provides low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. The company is conducting Internet Essentials pilot programs for ConnectHome communities, low-income senior citizens in Boston, Palm Beach County, San Francisco, and Seattle, and low-income community college students in Illinois and Colorado. In non-pilot communities, eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, charter, and homeschooled students. For more information, or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish speakers should call 1-855-765-6995.