We create connections. Bringing our powerful, secure internet experience into a home, business, or community space, answering a customer’s questions at an Xfinity Store, expanding our fiber-rich network or supporting digital and social equity, Comcast focuses on delivering the products and services our customers love while ensuring access for those who need it most. This year, we doubled down on these commitments.
Our network is the backbone of all that we offer, and we continue to increase reliability and capacity and to innovate, not just to meet current needs, but to stay well ahead of future demand. For instance, to support the ever-increasing number of connected devices in our customers’ homes, this year we introduced advanced Wi-Fi technology capable of delivering the fastest speeds over Wi-Fi. We also announced an investment of $26 million over the past two years to expand our network throughout Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey, directly reaching nearly 4,000 businesses and benefiting thousands more by making the network more accessible and affordable.
These investments allow us to keep our customers entertained and connected at home, at work and on the go. Throughout the year, we added value on our platforms with the launch of additional streaming services like Disney+ and ESPN+ on X1 and Flex. We enhanced our top-rated Xfinity Mobile service, providing even more options for customers to get a great wireless experience and still save. And, we extended that same great service to our small business customers with the new Comcast Business Mobile. To provide a place where customers can interact with our products and services and get advice from one of our experts, we offer 30 Xfinity Stores throughout the region. And we introduced a free rewards program, Xfinity Rewards, making special perks, discounts and experiences available to eligible Xfinity customers across the area.
We also continued to apply our resources to support our communities, working to create positive change and a more equitable society. We built upon our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with initiatives like Comcast RISE, the multiyear, multifaceted initiative that supports small businesses owned by people of color. In 2021, we provided more than 500 recipients across Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey with free marketing or technology services. We also awarded 100 small businesses in Philadelphia and Chester with $10,000 investment grants to support them through the pandemic recovery.
We continued our work to remove cost as a barrier to getting online. This year was the 10th anniversary of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption effort for low-income households, which has connected a cumulative total of 840,000 individuals across the region since 2011. Locally, we marked the milestone with Beyond Literacy, The Welcoming Center and SEAMAAC, providing 1,000 free laptops and a $30,000 donation split among the organizations. We also announced a partnership with Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey & Philadelphia where we launched a WiFi-connected Lift Zone for community members, donated grants totaling $35,000 and distributed 500 free laptops. Today, Internet Essentials customers receive network speeds up to 50 Mbps for the same $9.95/month price as when the program launched a decade ago. And, we’ve expanded the program eligibility to include all Federal Pell Grant recipients within our service area, enabling even more students to stay connected as they continue to pursue degrees at colleges, universities and technical schools.
As part of our ongoing commitment to help students and adults get online—whether to participate in distance learning or remote work, do homework, or look for and apply for jobs—this year we equipped more than 125 community spaces in the region with WiFi-connected Lift Zones. Along with Comcast RISE, Internet Essentials and other initiatives, Lift Zones are part of Project UP, our comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of Unlimited Possibilities, backed by a $1 billion commitment to reach 50 million people in the next 10 years.
And, to make it easier for families to get connected to the internet, Comcast is supporting the federal government’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). This temporary benefit program is designed to help qualified low-income households receive a credit of up to $50 per month toward their internet service until the program’s funding runs out. This gives new and existing customers the opportunity to apply the credit to all tiers of Xfinity Internet service, including Internet Essentials.
Other community investments during 2021 include rallying to support the Preston & Steve Show’s Camp Out for Hunger benefitting Philabundance; donating $400,000 to Greater Philadelphia food banks to tackle food insecurity; contributing $325,000 to three Philadelphia and New Jersey nonprofits impacted by Hurricane Ida; working with the City of Philadelphia and other philanthropic partners to provide reliable internet through PHLConnectED—enabling more than 18,000 connections so far and expanding support for STEM enrichment, tech career training in South Jersey through a $80,000 donation to the Camden Dream Center, to name a few examples.
None of our initiatives this year would have been possible without the talents and focus of our employees, like our Vice President of Network Engineering Dale Elifrits, whose team helped us through the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented shifts in network usage. Or the technicians who help to keep us connected during severe weather events. We were also thrilled to welcome a new Senior Vice President to the Freedom Region, Dennis Mathew. These team members, and so many more, have helped to bring our company’s offerings and values to life each and every day.
We’re grateful to be a part of the homes, businesses and communities throughout Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey, and we’re looking forward to continuing our relationships in the year to come. For more information on local Comcast news, visit https://philadelphia.comcast.com/. And for Comcast NBCUniversal’s 2021 news, visit corporate.comcast.com/press.