Today is Digital Learning Day, where at events around the country the benefits of broadband learning are being demonstrated. We’ve had a lot of first-hand experience with the power of broadband to improve lives through programs such as Comcast Digital Connectors, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s "Club Tech" program, our flagship Internet Essentials broadband adoption program and our recently announced partnership with Khan Academy. Comcast is committed to getting more kids connected to broadband in schools, in community centers, and at home, to help narrow the digital divide in America. And we’re proud of the comprehensive approach we take to these complicated issues – and to our leadership in this space.
Building on the President’s recent announcement of the ConnectED program, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today laid out a plan to reshape and modernize the FCC’s E-Rate program. As our comments in the pending FCC proceeding on E-Rate reform strongly confirm, we share the President’s and Chairman Wheeler’s vision for a re-targeted and re-focused program that will foster high-speed broadband connectivity to our nation’s classrooms and libraries -- – what Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has aptly called an upgrade for the 21st century, an E-rate 2.0. We applaud them for their commitment and vision.
Wired classrooms, libraries, and homes are essential for student success in the 21st century. We need true high speed data in our schools and libraries. And beyond school connectivity, we need to ensure that students have access to the Internet at home as well. Not having broadband at home is like having school but never having homework. While some kids might like that idea, it means the digital lessons learned during the day can’t be reinforced with digital learning and research at home. Students need to be connected in both places for success.
And in order to make the most of broadband in the classroom, it’s not enough to get broadband to the door of the school… it also has to be effectively deployed throughout the building — by wire and through leading-edge Wi-Fi networks.
Today's announcement by Chairman Wheeler represents an important step toward making that promise a reality. We support his objective to direct additional funding toward broadband networks this year, and applaud his efforts to more efficiently and effectively manage the E-Rate program. Of course, we cannot stop there. In 1996, when the E-Rate program was established, the focus was on bringing connected learning to the school. But it has become clear that we need a plan for an integrated, always-on digital learning platform — a continuum of connectivity — that begins in the classrooms, follows the child to after-school programs at public libraries, recreation centers, and other community centers, and ends with at-home broadband.
So we support the efforts by the Chairman and other FCC Commissioners for more comprehensive E-Rate reform – and look forward to continuing to play a constructive role in that process as it unfolds at the Commission in the weeks and months ahead.
Yesterday, President Obama announced details of commitments by a number of companies to improve student access to broadband connectivity. Since 2011, we’ve been doing our part, too, through our groundbreaking Internet Essentials (IE) broadband adoption effort to connect low-income families to broadband Internet. Today, IE is the nation's largest, most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low income Americans. We’ve connected over one million low-income Americans to broadband at home, most of them for the first time. To get the word out, we’ve distributed 27 million brochures in 14 different languages to school districts and community partners. We’ve fielded 1.5 million phone calls at the IE call center, had 1.2 million visits to the websites, and broadcast more than two million public service announcements about the program. We’ve engaged more than 30,000 schools in 4,000 school districts, and provided tens of thousands of individuals with digital literacy training. In December, we announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive partnership with Khan Academy which will bring their incredible free digital learning content together with broadband access for low-income Americans.
The President asked business leaders across the country to help connect our students to the 21st century, "to support our teachers and our parents and give every young person every shot at success." We are there, proudly supporting parents, students, and teachers, and connecting more and more of them to broadband every day. We will continue to expand our efforts, and will work with the Administration and the FCC to get the maximum value from the E-Rate program for America’s schools by promoting competitive choice, encouraging efficiency, and encouraging the use of the latest broadband technologies.