Several weeks ago, the United Way partnered with Comcast to create local “learning zones” near five Chicago public schools. The Internet Essentials program will provide enhanced Internet access, training programs, discounted broadband Internet access and free Wi-Fi to low-income families of children enrolled in the schools.
The city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, takes credit for the initiative.
“Last August, I challenged Comcast to double the number of families enrolled in Internet Essentials in the city,” Mr. Emanuel said. “I am committed to closing the digital divide and improving digital literacy of Chicago’s work force and youth.”
About 70 percent of students qualify for the program, determined by the fact that they are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Their families have the option of paying $9.95 per month for broadband service, buying an Internet-ready computer for less than $150 and receiving access to digital literacy training sessions. In class, students will have access to computers and electronic textbooks.
Additionally, the Chicago Community Trust and the Smart Chicago Collaborative have purchased and distributed 25 Opportunity Cards, vouchers that cover a full year of broadband service, for select families.
So far, Comcast has sold 18,000 subsidized computers through the program and reached families in more than 4,000 school districts nationwide.
The three-year-old Internet Essentials program currently serves more than 220,000 families in the United States. Since the program first launched, Comcast has tripled its Internet download speeds.