MIAMI—With the start of the new school year, the largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption initiative in the US for low-income families is being re-launched by Comcast.
Kicking off the program, Internet Essentials, for the third year were Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Miami Dade County School Superintendent Alberto
Carvalho, Miami Dade League of Cities President and Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn and Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen.
In 22 months, more than 220,000 families have been connected to the Internet through the program, benefiting an estimated 900,000 low-income Americans nationwide.
This number of broadband connections at home includes nearly 18,700 families in the South Florida area, and nearly 30,000 in the state of Florida.
Comcast is hosting kickoff events in 23 states across the US to raise visibility about bridging the digital divide in America and connecting more families to the Internet.
“For school students today, digital literacy is no longer an option, it is a necessity,” said Carvalho. “Our curriculum and informational systems are all rapidly moving to the digital world, which means getting students connected to the Internet becomes a more critical task.”
More low-income Americans “now have the opportunity to use the power of the Internet at home to get ahead in work, education and life, just by doing things online that many of us take for granted, such as completing homework, applying for a job, researching a health condition, or paying a bill,” said Cohen.
Since Internet Essential’s launch in August 2011, upwards of 50,000 new families were enrolled every six months. In the last six months alone, 70,000 new families have signed up.
In addition, Comcast distributed more than 18,000 subsidized computers; trained nearly 20,000 people; publicized the program in more than 4,000 school districts and more than 30,000 schools; broadcast nearly 2 million public service announcements and partnered with nearly 7,000 community based organizations, agencies and officials to help spread the word about the program.
This year, the program has facilitated the following:
• Increased Speed—For the second time in two years, Comcast has increased its broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers up to 5 Mbps downstream and up to 1 Mbps upstream. On September 1st, Comcast will have more than tripled the download speeds for Internet Essentials customers since the program’s launch.
• Streamlined Enrollment—Comcast has further streamlined the enrollment process by
expanding the instant approval process to eligible families that attend schools with 70 percent or more National School Lunch Program participation. An estimated 4,600 additional schools located in states where Comcast provides service are now eligible for instant approval. This is on top of the 20,000 schools that are already approved for instant approval.
• Expanded Eligibility—Comcast has expanded program eligibility criteria for the second time, to include parochial, private and homeschooled students. Now, nearly 2.6 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.
• Created an Online Application Tool— On InternetEssentials.com, it is now easier and faster for a family to apply for Internet Essentials. This convenient online tool can be used by families on computers at community centers, local libraries or at a friend’s to request an application.
• Introduced Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards—Our community partners are now able to help connect low-income families to the Internet by purchasing Opportunity Cards that can be used toward the cost of paying for Internet Essentials service.
In Florida, Comcast is working with 150 community-based organizations, including 40 in Miami, to spread the word about Internet Essentials and provide digital literacy training. These organizations include: The Miami Public Library System; Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Miami and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Miami.