On the 10th anniversary of its Internet Essentials program, Comcast today announced it would invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to help further close the digital divide and give even more low-income Americans the tools and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world. The announcement coincides with the release of a 10-year Progress Report showing that, since 2011, the company, working in collaboration with its network of thousands of nonprofit partners, has connected a cumulative total of more than 10 million people in America to broadband Internet at home, the overwhelming majority of whom were not connected prior to signing up.
Locally, Internet Essentials has connected more than 520,000 Philadelphia residents, including more than 9,000 who have been connected to Internet Essentials at no cost through PHLConnectED, the partnership between the city, school district and a coalition of businesses, schools and civic leaders, including Comcast. In New Jersey, more than 276,000 residents have been connected to the Internet through Internet Essentials and across our Greater Philadelphia footprint, more than 840,000 residents (New Jersey included) have connected through Internet Essentials.
Comcast’s $1 billion commitment will include investments in a number of critical areas, including: additional support for its ongoing Lift Zone initiative, which establishes WiFi-connected safe spaces in 1,000+ community centers nationwide for students and adults by the end of 2021; new laptop and computer donations; grants for nonprofit community organizations to create opportunities for low-income Americans, particularly in media, technology, and entrepreneurship; and continued investment in the company’s landmark Internet Essentials program. It is estimated that these new commitments will impact as many as 50 million Americans over the next 10 years. In 2021 alone, Comcast estimates students will be able to complete more than 25 million hours of remote learning lessons to further address the “homework gap” at the hundreds of Lift Zone locations that have already opened or will open soon.
Locally, across Greater Philadelphia, New Jersey and northern Delaware, Comcast has partnered with nonprofits and community centers to roll out more than 100 Lift Zones so students in our area can get online each day to participate in distance education and other programming.
“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” said Dave Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable. “Together, we have been able to connect millions of people to the power of the Internet at home, and to the endless opportunity, education, growth, and discovery it provides. Today, we are rededicating ourselves to this mission to ensure that the next generation of students in America has the tools, resources, and abilities they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.”
“The City of Philadelphia appreciates Comcast’s partnership and support for the PHLConnectED program which provides free internet for students,” said Otis Hackney, Chief Education Officer. “The scale of virtual learning that we are engaged in today, and of course, PHLConnectED, simply would not be possible for our schools without Internet Essentials as one of the initiative’s key internet solutions. I am grateful that Comcast has committed to continuing the Internet Essentials program for another decade and look forward to our continued partnership.”
“At Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, we have seen first-hand how transformative Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has been over the past ten years,” said Kim E. Fraites-Dow, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. “Making the internet accessible regardless of income, helps support our next generation of leaders by providing the resources and technology needed to make the world a better, more connected place.”
“Comcast has been a LIFELINE for LUCY and its families, especially during this challenging time of navigating a pandemic,” said Kristin Prinn, Executive Director of LUCY Outreach in Camden. “Being able to provide our families a solution for getting online, providing them with devices and technology assistance from the Comcast team – all thanks to Internet Essentials – made it possible for our youth to be able to connect with school and LUCY, virtually. Great work Comcast! Thanks for being an incredible partner and having a huge impact in Camden!”
“The pandemic brought to light the true impact of the digital divide, especially on our children. Lack of internet was a barrier to education but thanks to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, our families were able to quickly gain access to high-speed internet ensuring children in our community could to do their schoolwork without getting left behind,” said Leah Dade, Executive Director of Second Street Youth Center, Plainfield, NJ. “For the past ten years Internet Essentials has been bringing equity to families whose children would have been left behind – something I have now seen first-hand.”
“The Boys & Girls Club of Chester is grateful for our long-time partnership with Comcast. Tackling the digital divide requires teamwork, and Internet Essentials and the new Lift Zone program have been critical resources for us in helping the community of Chester, especially through this pandemic. Internet access provides our youth with the ability to be competitive with their peers all across the country,” said Derrick T. Billups, Sr., Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Chester.
In addition to capturing the total number of connections Internet Essentials has provided, the 10-Year Progress Report also highlights other key metrics about the program, including having:
- Increased the program’s Internet speeds six times, from 1.5 Mbps in 2011 to 50 Mbps today, without ever increasing the price of the program, which has remained $9.95/month.
- Launched its Lift Zones program, which aims to connect more than 1,000 community centers with free WiFi by the end of 2021.
- Developed an Internet Essentials Partnership Program that has signed up hundreds of schools, school districts, and other organizations that have come together to help connect tens of thousands of students to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Offered 60 days of free Internet service to any new Internet Essentials customer who needed to get online during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Expanded the number of languages our Internet Essentials call center agents can speak to more than 240, plus American Sign Language, to help ensure we break down language barriers that can prevent people from applying or getting online.
- Built up an online learning center that includes more than 200 digital literacy training videos, guides, and reports that are free to anyone to use, including non-customers.
- Developed an employee network of 3,000 Internet Essentials Ambassadors who volunteer their time to help spread the word about the program in their communities.
This new commitment comes on the heels of a series of initiatives announced during the COVID-19 pandemic that reinforced the company’s commitment to addressing the digital divide and the homework gap by upping speeds to 50 Mbps downstream without changing the program’s $9.95/month price. The company also continues to offer 60 days of free Internet service to new Internet Essentials customers who sign up before June 30, 2021.