We made some announcements this month that build on our longstanding commitment to advance digital equity, close the digital divide, and address digital literacy in communities of color. These new and expanded efforts in Washington are designed to help connect as many people to the Internet as possible and create new opportunities for underrepresented communities through the education, resources, and skills training they need to succeed in today’s digital economy.
Here in Washington, approximately 87% percent of households are connected to the Internet at home. Yet, among households that make less than $35,000 annually, only 71% percent are connected. That 16-percentage-point gap is the digital divide in our state. And the sad truth is that people living on the wrong side of that divide are disproportionately low-income and minority families – the very population that would benefit most from being connected to the Internet at home.
The number one barrier to broadband adoption is a complex mix of digital literacy skills and a lack of perceived need or interest in having the Internet at home. The second barrier is the lack of an Internet-capable computer, and third is the cost of a monthly Internet subscription.
Internet Essentials is a comprehensive, holistic, and research-based program designed to address each of these barriers head on: it provides low-cost Internet access – the option to purchase a heavily discounted and subsidized Internet-ready computer – and access to a full suite of digital literacy training, in print, online, and in person.
And now we’re doubling the download and upload speeds of Internet Essentials, for new and existing customers at no additional cost. The new speeds begin rolling out to customers statewide on March 1 and will be added to their accounts automatically, increasing download speed to 50 Mbps and upstream speed to 5 Mbps. These speeds support multiple concurrent videoconferencing sessions and enable family members with multiple kids to learn and work from home.
For more than a decade, we have focused on connecting low-income families in Washington to the Internet through Internet Essentials, one of the state’s largest and most comprehensive low-cost Internet adoption program for low-income households. And currently, Internet Essentials is supporting families across 89 school districts in the state, through the WA State K-12 Internet Access program, provided by Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). To date the company and OPSI have offered service to more than 55,000 households during the pandemic through this partnership.
The new speeds of 50/5 mbps will provide even greater support for multiple concurrent video-conferencing sessions and enable family members with multiple kids to learn and work from home. “Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has been a key component of successful remote learning in our state,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “These faster internet speeds will make a difference for students as they continue engaging with their educators and peers virtually.”
This is the sixth time in 10 years that we’ve increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of the service at $9.95 a month. In addition, we continue to offer 60 days of free service to any new Internet Essentials customer who signs up before June 30, 2021.
To take our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through technology even further, our company also announced a plan this month to accelerate these efforts, close the digital divide and address both digital literacy and the homework gap. These are key issues impacting communities of color that we are uniquely positioned to help solve. The new and expanded efforts are designed to help connect as many Americans to the Internet as possible and create new opportunities for underrepresented communities through the education, resources, and skills training they need to succeed in today’s digital economy.
Locally, we’re also continuing our decade-long targeted philanthropic investments in Washington to organizations working to increase digital equity and create pathways to opportunities for communities of color. In 2020, we invested more than $6 million statewide and we’ll make a similar investment in Washington this year.
We partner with Goodwill, United Way King County, Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), El Centro de la Raza, YWCA, The Seattle Office of Economic Development, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, and other organizations that share our goals of advancing digital equity and social justice and equality in Washington.
For more information about Internet Essentials and our commitment to equity for underserved communities in our state and across the country, visit https://corporate.comcast.com/values/diversity-equity-inclusion. .