Today in Chicago, we officially kicked off our sixth Internet Essentials back-to-school season with the release of a five year progress report on Internet Essentials. It was symbolic, as five years ago in Chicago, Comcast started on a journey to help close the digital divide for low-income families in America with the launch of our Internet Essentials program.
We have made real and significant progress. Since August 2011, when we connected our very first family, Internet Essentials has connected 750,000 low-income households, or 3 million Americans, to the power of the Internet in their homes.
To put that in perspective, 3 million is larger than the populations of all but two of America’s 100 largest cities, as well as the populations of 21 states, including Mississippi, Utah, and West Virginia.
This is a remarkable milestone, but we did not do this alone. One of the biggest lessons we learned is that no single company or government program is ever going to close the digital divide all by itself. Solving a big, difficult societal issue like the digital divide takes a movement.
It takes passionate people from all walks of life who are united and determined to solve one of the great inequalities in our society. It takes people like Cheryl Hobby, a math teacher at Lee Street Elementary School in Georgia, who embraced Internet Essentials because her students only had access to the school’s computer lab for 45 minutes a day. She saw immediately what having home internet service could mean for her students’ grades.
It takes people like Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who personally made the case that Chicagoans take advantage of this program, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, with whom we recently announced the biggest, most sweeping change to the program in its history – we expanded eligibility to all HUD-housing assisted families, of which there are up to 2 million in our service area across the country.
Creating a movement also takes customers, parents, and mothers like Lisa, Delis, and Gale, who all had the courage and confidence to share their stories about what Internet Essentials has meant for them and their families.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, six-time Olympic medalist and our new Internet Essentials spokesperson, joined me in Chicago, and together, we will go on a multi-city tour over the next six weeks, stopping in Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia. We will blog about each event, so stay tuned for more.