RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Comcast today launched year two of Internet Essentials, an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program currently available to low-income families across Virginia. Kyle McSlarrow, President of Comcast/NBCUniversal, Washington, D.C., was joined by FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell and Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones to emphasize the importance of closing the digital divide and outline several new enhancements to the program at a special event at Chimborazo Elementary School in Richmond.
To date, more than 100,000 families (or 400,000 Americans) nationwide - including more than 1,800 families (or 7,200 residents) in the Commonwealth of Virginia – have been connected to the Internet through Internet Essentials. In its second year, Comcast continues to enhance the program with new features and processes designed to accelerate enrollment.
"Comcast recognizes how important it is to close the digital divide and ensure more lower-income American families have access to the same opportunities as other families who are online at home, and we're making great strides with Internet Essentials," said McSlarrow. "As the program enters its second year, we remain fully committed to connecting more families, and appreciate the ongoing support we have received from our various partners throughout Virginia and beyond."
Commissioner McDowell added, "Promoting broadband adoption is important for America to maintain its global competitiveness. I commend Comcast for putting forth such a tremendous effort to ensure more school-aged children and their families have access to the tools and skills to help them create better opportunities for themselves and their communities. Through public-private partnerships like this, America is making great strides to spur broadband deployment and adoption, but with much more work to do, I encourage others to join in to support this cause."
"Broadband access and digital literacy are important issues for Virginia, and we commend Comcast for its commitment to bring an Internet connection into more homes and offer more students, families and individuals across our state a new world of possibilities through Internet Essentials," said Governor Bob McDonnell.
"Access to broadband has become an imperative for Americans, and we need to ensure that every student across our city and their families are provided an equal opportunity to experience the benefits of the Internet," said Mayor Jones. "I applaud Comcast for offering a program that will help connect so many of our residents with educational and job resources, government and healthcare services and other opportunities to enhance their daily lives."
"With access to technology in early years, our children not only have a world of knowledge at their fingertips, but they're practicing the skills that will help them succeed in an increasingly digital nation," said Chimborazo Elementary School Principal Cheryl Burke. "We are grateful to Comcast for providing our students and their families, regardless of socioeconomic background, with the means to stay connected to our schools, access valuable information and resources, build technology skills and so much more."
Comcast also presented a $10,000 grant to the Chimborazo Elementary that will be used to outfit a soon-to-be remodeled media center, where students can practice and develop academic and digital literacy skills.
New in 2012:
Since Internet Essentials launched, Comcast has made a number of program enhancements including:
- Expanded eligibility criteria to include families with children eligible to receive reduced price school lunches under the National School Lunch Program. This means nearly 300,000 additional households are now eligible for the program, bringing the total to 2.3 million eligible families;
- Doubled broadband speeds to up to 3 Mbps downstream and up to 768 Kbps upstream;
- Upgraded the free Internet safety software to include the Constant Guard Protection Suite, which includes top-rated Norton Security Suite, identity theft protection and more;
- Enriched digital literacy training efforts both online and in-person, including offering a series of short videos, featuring NBC and Telemundo news personalities Al Roker, Kate Snow, Jenna Wolfe and Jose Diaz-Balart, discussing how to use job search tools and social networking sites as well as tips for what parents should know about cyber bullying;
- Streamlined the approval process by providing an instant approval process for all students who attend schools with the highest percentage of National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation, which includes Provision 2 schools;
- Introduced a bulk order program that empowers community-based organizations to purchase Internet Essentials accounts so they can connect the eligible families they serve.
Internet Essentials Program Details:
Internet Essentials addresses three primary barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified: a lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful, the cost of a home computer and the cost of the Internet service. Program participants receive:
- Residential Internet service for $9.95 a month plus applicable taxes;
- No price increases, no activation fees, or equipment rental fees;
- A voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax; and
- Access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.
A household is eligible to participate if it meets all of the following criteria:
- Is located where Comcast offers Internet service;
- Has at least one child who is eligible to receive either a free or reduced school lunch under the NSLP;
- Has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days;
- Does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program through the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Any household that qualifies will remain eligible for Internet Essentials if at least one child eligible for either a free or reduced price school lunch remains living in the household.
In Virginia, Comcast is working with a growing network of community-based organizations to spread the word about Internet Essentials, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, Communities in Schools, Greater Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP), Richmond Public Library, The Urban League and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
For general information about Internet Essentials, please visit www.internetessentials.com for English and visit www.internetbasico.com for Spanish. Educators or third-parties interested in helping to spread the word can find more information at www.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) (www.comcast.com) is one of the nation's leading providers of entertainment, information and communications products and services. Comcast is principally involved in the operation of cable systems through Comcast Cable and in the development, production and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and other content for global audiences through NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential and business customers. Comcast is the majority owner and manager of NBCUniversal, which owns and operates entertainment and news cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, local television station groups, television production operations, a major motion picture company and theme parks.