March 04, 2014 — WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David L. Cohen today announced the company will continue Internet Essentials indefinitely — beyond its initial three-year commitment. Internet Essentials is Comcast’s acclaimed national broadband adoption program for low-income families. The company also announced more than $1 million in grants to dozens of non-profit organizations across the country to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones. The grants are part of a multi-faceted Gold Medal Recognition Program for communities that have done the most to help close the digital divide. In addition to the grants, Internet Essentials-eligible families in the Gold Medal-recognized communities who are not currently customers can receive six months of complimentary Internet service if they apply and are approved for the program by March 18th, 2014. (See below for the list of communities.)
“In just two and a half years, this groundbreaking initiative has connected more than 1.2 million low-income Americans, or 300,000 families, to broadband Internet at home,” said Cohen. “We are also proud to join President Obama’s call to action for helping to realize his ConnectED educational goals as we announce today an extension and enhancement of our multi-year commitment to close the digital divide. Here at Comcast, addressing the digital divide head-on has long been a priority for our company. We believe the Internet has the power to transform lives, strengthen communities, and inspire a new generation of leaders.”
The grants made through the Gold Medal Recognition Program will be used to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones. These networks of non-profit partners will work together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training. They will be established in communities in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami, and Seattle, among others.
Also today, Dr. John B. Horrigan, head of research for the F.C.C.’s National Broadband Plan and a former research director with Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, released a new study of Internet Essentials customers that provides insights on policies that can inform the design of effective broadband adoption programs. The study reflects that Internet Essentials service is widely used by participants to do school work, that home users report it helps “a lot”, and that in addition to schools, full-on participation by institutions such as libraries, banks, government agencies, and employers, plays an important role in increasing broadband adoption and utilization. The full research report of Horrigan’s findings is available here.
“The research shows that for broadband adoption initiatives to successfully reach low-income families, they need to embrace two key elements,” said Horrigan. “First, they must be woven into the fabric of the entire community with trusted institutions that can help nurture and sustain Internet usage. Second, programs need to provide robust digital literacy educational opportunities that address the knowledge gap head on.”
Top research findings include:
- Institutions are important drivers in encouraging non-broadband users to adopt broadband.
- 98% of families said they signed up for Internet Essentials because their kids needed it for school.
- 83% said their child’s school expected that students have online access at home.
- Training makes a difference in how people engage with the Internet.
- 48% say the most helpful way to learn new things is to teach themselves through reading or online videos.
- 29% took advantage of in-person or online training resources and these users are more likely to say the Internet helps their kids with school work, how they access government services, and look for or apply for jobs.
- Broadband adoption programs are an important resource for economic advancement.
- 62% said they needed Internet service to look for or apply for jobs.
- 57% said the Internet helped them “a lot” or “somewhat” for job searches.
Since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $165 million in cash and in-kind support to fund digital literacy initiatives nationally. Additional key program milestones and facts through the end of 2013 include:
- Comcast and its community partners have provided support for free digital literacy training and education for more than 1.6 million people.
- Broadcast more than 3.6 million public service announcements, valued at nearly $48 million.
- Sold more than 23,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
- Distributed more than 33 million Internet Essentials brochures at no cost.
- Welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and the Online Learning Center.
- Fielded more than 1.9 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
- Partnered with more than 8,000 community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state and local elected officials.
- Offered Internet Essentials in more than 30,000 schools and 4,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
The 15 Gold Medal recognized communities that will create Internet Essentials Learning Zones include: Adams County, Colo.; Atlanta, Ga.; Aurora, Colo.; Chicago, Ill.; Cicero-Berwyn, Ill.; Collier, Fla.; Denver, Colo.; Elk Grove, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Pasadena, Texas; Seattle, Wash.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Tacoma, Wash. Comcast is also recognizing five “most improved” communities that are eligible to participate in the two-week, complimentary service opportunity. These include: Baltimore, Md.; Lee, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Francisco; and Stockton, Calif.