Over the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure to travel to a number of cities across the U.S. to help raise awareness about Internet Essentials and make a dent in the digital divide. In addition to my hometown, Philadelphia, I went to Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.
Along the way, I met with superintendents, principals, teachers, elected officials, non-profit leaders and employees. Of course, the people who were the most excited about the program were the kids and their parents. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to meet parents and their children and hear what a difference having Internet service at home has made in their lives. I wanted to share three stories with you, and I hope you’ll see what I mean.
At a Comcast digital literacy rally in Charleston, South Carolina with FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, I met Crystal, a mother of four. Crystal heard about Internet Essentials while she was at her daughter’s school. A fellow Comcaster was handing out brochures and sharing information about the program. So, she signed up. Crystal was excited because she set up her first email address so she could stay better connected to her friends and family. She hadn’t had one before because she didn’t have a computer at home and she felt left out. She was also excited because she watched her 4-year-old son learn how to spell his name on the computer. She wanted him to start using a computer early so he would be able to keep up with the other kids at school. She was also relieved because now that she had Internet service at home, she no longer needed to drive her older kids and step kids to the library to get online and do their schoolwork.
This is exactly the kind of story that Commissioner Clyburn and I had imagined was possible if the right program could be offered to people like Crystal and her family.
Reverend Robert Johnson:
I met Reverend Johnson in Philadelphia at an event at Constitution High School with Brian Roberts, Tony Dungy, Mayor Michael Nutter and others. When the Reverend left his office job of 28 years to become a full-time pastor, he needed to make a lot of changes in his family’s lifestyle to adjust to the pay cut he took. Internet service was one of the things that had to go, which had been particularly difficult for his 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old grandson.
Not having Internet service at home meant his daughter had to go to a friend’s house or to the library to complete school projects. The Reverend figured his kids could use encyclopedias, like the ones he used when he was in school. But he also knows the world is changing too fast. He told me a new encyclopedia printed today would probably be out of date before it even left the printing press. I’m sure he’s right. So, when he learned about Internet Essentials at a back to school event, he signed up right away because $9.95 a month was something he could afford. He already knew how important having Internet service at home was, and he didn’t want his kids to feel excluded from all that it had to offer them while they were in school.
In Chicago, I met Gale who came to an event at UNO Charter School with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She had heard about Internet Essentials the year before and she wanted to tell everyone how having Internet service at home had made a big difference in her life. A year ago, Gale’s daughter was a senior in high school and she wanted to go to college. Gale hadn’t been able to finish college, but she wanted her daughter to go so she signed up for Internet Essentials. Her daughter went online at night to study for her SATs. Then, the two of them did research on colleges and applied for scholarships. Her daughter is now in her freshman year. All this inspired Gale to start taking some courses online at night so she can become a teacher. She told me, "I have a degree in motherhood, but now I want my college degree."
Gale also is teaching her 10-year-old son how to use the Internet. His favorite websites have to do with Legos. She knows her son would be at a disadvantage at school if he doesn’t learn how to the use the Internet. Her son uses Study Island and she doesn’t have to walk him 10 blocks to the library anymore. She uses her son’s school’s parent portal for her to watch his progress and she has been going online to look for jobs. She had recently been in retail, but lost her job. Now she wants to get a job in customer service.
These are just three stories that help shine a light on what a difference having Internet service at home can make. We also need your help to spread the word about Internet Essentials one family at a time. For more information on how you can help, please visit www.internetessentials.com