Mar 10, 2015

Internet Essentials Has Connected More Than 450,000 Families, Benefitting 1.8 Million Low-Income Americans

Comcast today announced that since August 2011, its nationally acclaimed broadband adoption program, Internet Essentials, has connected more than 450,000 families, or 1.8 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet at home. To put that in perspective, 1.8 million is larger than the populations of 96 of America’s 100 largest cities as well as 12 states and the District of Columbia. What’s more, the six-month period from September 2014 through February 2015 was the most successful period in the program’s history, with nearly 90,000 new Internet Essentials enrollments.

For the fourth year in a row, the Chicago metro area leads the way in closing the digital divide with Internet Essentials. More than 50,000 families benefitting 200,000 low-income Chicagoans – nearly 25 percent of its eligible population – have signed up. The Miami metro area is second, with more than 41,500 families benefitting 166,000 low-income citizens – 28 percent of its eligible population. The Atlanta metro area is third with more than 25,000 families benefitting more than 100,000 low-income citizens – almost 20 percent of its eligible population.

"Through years of research and hard work, we have found that relentless engagement and digital education on a hyper-local level is the key to closing the digital divide," said David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation. "We are making great progress and ask other companies and non-profits, who share our goal of getting all Americans connected, to join us, and do their part."

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent (2013) American Community Survey, with a sample size of more than 3.5 million Americans, reveals that 52 percent of low-income households in the U.S., with household incomes below $35,000, now subscribe to wireline broadband at home, as compared to 48 percent in 2010. Also, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), although broadband adoption for low-income households has been increasing, for certain low-income groups, it still falls more than 20 percentage points behind the general population, which had a 73 percent adoption rate in 2012.

Through Internet Essentials, Comcast has sought to directly address the primary barriers for low-income students and their families, investing more than $225 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy and readiness training and education, reaching more than 3.1 million people through our national and local non-profit community partners.

Internet Essentials, called "the largest experiment ever" to close the digital divide by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), has been unparalleled in its success. Even though Comcast is only one of multiple providers and does not have broadband systems in two-thirds of the country, the company’s Internet Essentials program has accounted for one-quarter of all of the national broadband adoption growth for low-income families with children from the program’s inception through June 2014, according to Dr. John B. Horrigan, America’s preeminent researcher on broadband adoption and utilization and former head of research for the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

Dr. Horrigan recently completed his second study of Internet Essentials customers. Called Deepening Ties, it examines the evolution from non-adopters to adopters. Two of the most striking findings include:

  • The real key to economic and personal empowerment through broadband adoption is training and education. Those who received formal digital training, like the kind provided by non-profits through the Internet Essentials program, were 15 percentage points more likely to use the Internet to look for a job.

  • Almost two-thirds of Internet Essentials families said Internet Essentials helped them manage their work schedules and better balance their work/life responsibilities.

The report further underscores how important the Internet is for 21st Century job readiness and STEM education, as well as for economic and personal empowerment. Through the end of February 2015, Comcast has also:

  • Dedicated $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of non-profit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami, and Seattle, among others.

  • Provided nearly 38,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.

  • Distributed for free more than 45 million Internet Essentials program materials.

  • Broadcast more than 6 million public service announcements, valued at more than $75 million.

  • Welcomed nearly 3.2 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and its Online Learning Center.

  • Fielded nearly 3 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.

  • Offered Internet Essentials in more than 30,000 schools and 4,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Partnered with thousands of community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.

Internet Essentials customer research indicates it has made a real impact on their lives.

  • 98 percent said their kids use the Internet service to do schoolwork, and of these respondents, 95 percent said it has had a positive impact on their child’s grades.

  • 92 percent said they would recommend Internet Essentials to friends and family, and of these customers, 85 percent have already done so.

  • 89 percent said they are satisfied with the program.

  • 85 percent said they use the Internet service every day or almost every day.

  • 54 percent use it for job hunting, and of these, 65 percent feel that having the Internet at home has helped them find a job.

Through feedback from Internet Essentials customers and recommendations from community partners, Comcast has made more than 20 key enhancements to the program over the past three and a half years. For instance, Comcast has:

  • Extended the program indefinitely, well beyond its original three-year commitment.

  • Increased eligibility by 30 percent.

  • Established national partnerships, including with Khan Academy, National Urban League, Get Schooled, and LULAC.

  • Provided amnesty to families who have a past due balance older than one year.

  • Increased the Internet service speed twice.

  • Created an online application process.

  • Streamlined enrollment by creating an 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.

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