The program, which launched in 2011, offers families Internet connection for $9.95/month, computers for $150, and free online training. To qualify, families must have a child eligible for the National School Lunch Program and reside in an area where Comcast offers Internet service, among other minimal requirements.
Comcast’s announcement was made in Washington, D.C.: reportedly home to 5000 of the 220,000 families that Internet Essentials has helped. “Compared to a year ago we have more than doubled the number of families here in the D.C. area who are now able to complete school assignments, access government resources, apply for jobs and scholarships and pay bills at home,” said David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast.
D.C. mayor Vincent Gray stressed the importance of giving Internet access to students. “The Internet has become a critical educational tool and Internet Essentials expands access to children regardless of their socioeconomic situation,” he said.
New York City authorities have recently expressed similar concern over students’ ability—or lack thereof, rather—to access the Internet (Manhattan borough president Scott M. Stringer recently criticized the fact that 75 percent of NYC schools have Internet speeds 100 times slower than the National Broadband Plan’s goals). Earlier this month, Connect2Compete launched its EveryoneOn campaign, which—like Comcast’s Internet Essentials program—provides low-cost computers and Internet access to disadvantaged families.
Comcast also announced a new partnership with D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative, a “cradle to career pipeline” for local children, ensuring they receive proper nutrition and education, and ultimately obtain post-secondary degrees and jobs.
“Broadband is fast becoming an essential part of our commercial and civic life,” said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “That is why the work of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and Comcast’s Internet Essentials program is so important. By helping students and their families get online, they enhance opportunity, strengthen communities, and help kids in school develop the skills necessary for the digital age.”