PITTSBURGH, Oct. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- With the new school year in full swing, Comcast is re-launching Internet Essentials, the nation's largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption initiative for low-income families. Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane, NFL great Tony Dungy and Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, along with civic and community leaders, today kicked off the program's third year and announced that, in about 22 months, more than 220,000 families, benefitting an estimated 900,000 low-income Americans nationwide, now have a broadband connection at home. This includes more than 2,000 families in the Pittsburgh region and more than 11,000 in Pennsylvania.
"There's a deep digital divide in our country between the haves and the have-nots, and it's growing every day as computer technology and the Internet become ever more central in our lives," said Congressman Doyle. "This digital divide is just one more obstacle facing low-income households trying to get ahead – or even just get by. Today, Internet access and computer skills are essential for both school and the workplace. That's why I've been a strong supporter of programs to help provide universal access to computers, broadband, and the skills needed to use them – programs like Internet Essentials."
Today at Pittsburgh Langley K-8, hundreds of students and teachers attended a Pep Rally themed "closing the digital divide" with special guests Congressman Doyle, Mayor Ravenstahl, Cohen and Dungy. Dungy, the Super Bowl-winning former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and a former Pittsburgh Steeler player and coach, leads the Dungy Family Foundation in Tampa, Fla., which strengthens, sustains and empowers communities by providing opportunities to those in need, opportunities like the ones provided through Internet Essentials.
"Internet Essentials can have a game-changing impact on education and the lives of young people," said Dungy. "It really levels the playing field for those that might not have the opportunities they deserve just because they never had access to the tools and resources that drive success in today's technologically advanced world."
"Thanks to community leaders and schools nationwide, more than 220,000 families – or 900,000 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. "Together, with cities like Pittsburgh, we are making real and significant progress in closing the digital divide in America."
Mayor Ravenstahl added, "Too many of Pittsburgh's students are placed at a disadvantage when they are unable to afford a home computer and Internet service— a necessity in today's increasingly digital world. Internet Essentials, paired with other opportunities like The Pittsburgh Promise, helps students overcome financial barriers and equips them with the opportunities they need to succeed."
The momentum of Internet Essentials continues to increase. Since the program's launch in August 2011, Internet Essentials has enrolled upwards of 50,000 new families every six months. In the last six months, 70,000 new families have signed up. In addition, Comcast has 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 two million public service announcements and partnered with nearly 7,000 community-based organizations, agencies, and officials to help spread the word about the program.
"As a child, I had to physically go the library, search the Dewey Decimal system and flip through the pages of encyclopedias to research an assigned topic," said Superintendent Lane. "Today, children can find a wealth of information without leaving their homes or classrooms, thanks to technology. In a matter of minutes, our students learn about every subject from A to Z. One way families can use the Internet is to check in on their children's progress through our Parent Online Access portal, which provides real-time information about grades, homework and attendance. We appreciate that the Internet Essentials Program offers a more affordable way for families to log in online."
2013 Internet Essentials Enhancements
To increase enrollment and continue to help close the digital divide in America, Comcast continues to enhance Internet Essentials. This year we have:
- 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. The company has 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 for families whose students attend schools where 70 percent or more of the students are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
- Expanded Eligibility – Comcast has expanded program eligibility criteria for the second time, to include parochial, private, cyberschool, and homeschooled students. Now, nearly 2.6 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.
- Created an Online Application Tool – On InternetEssentials.com and InternetBasico.com, it is now easier and faster for a family to apply for Internet Essentials. This convenient online request form is available in English and Spanish and can be accessed through any Internet-enabled computer, tablet, or smartphone. It 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 the Pittsburgh area, Comcast is working with a number of community-based organizations to spread the word about Internet Essentials and provide digital literacy training. These organizations include: Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Learning Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, The Consortium for Public Education, The Education Partnership, Sarah Heinz House, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, and Best of the Batch Foundation, among others.
About Internet Essentials:
Internet Essentials from Comcast is the nation's largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. It provides low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in-person. A household is eligible to participate if it has at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), is located where Comcast offers Internet service, has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days, and does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment. Families that enroll in the program can continue to enjoy the service as long as one child eligible to participate in the NSLP is living in the household.
For more information about Internet Essentials visit InternetEssentials.com for English and InternetBasico.com for Spanish. Educators or third-parties interested in helping to spread the word can find more information at InternetEssentials.com/partner. Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.
About Comcast Corporation:
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. NBCUniversal operates 30 news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.
SOURCE Comcast Cable