Through our nationally acclaimed broadband adoption program — Internet Essentials — we are making real and significant progress in closing the digital divide for low-income families in Northern California and across our entire service area.  From August 2011 through February 2015, we have connected more than 60,000 families, or 240,000 low-income Californians, to the power of the Internet in their homes.  Nationally, we have signed up more than 450,000 families or 1.8 million low-income Americans.

In fact, two of the top seven U.S. metro areas with the greatest number of Internet Essentials families are in California — San Francisco and Fresno.  We have accomplished this through relentless engagement with more than 600 Northern California school districts, community-based organizations, and faith groups, as well as many elected officials and community leaders.

Southern California families deserve the same opportunities that low-income families have just 300 miles north in cities such as Fresno, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento.  And, we can’t wait to build on the success we’ve had in Northern California by bringing Internet Essentials to the families that need it most in the greater Los Angeles region.  So as we heard from one of our potential partners just last week, "let’s do this!"

Our first efforts to deliver Internet Essentials to Southern California began back in September 2014, when Comcast’s Executive Vice President David L. Cohen kicked off a series of briefings at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  Since then, my Comcast-NBCUniversal colleagues and I have personally met with nearly 200 non-profit, community, and educational leaders.  We have gathered together in community centers, classrooms, and even a children’s science center to talk about how we can bridge the digital divide – working together.  We have learned first-hand about the strong need and desire for a low-cost high-speed Internet service program for families in Southern California.

Our visits took us to every corner of Los Angeles County — from Monterey Park to the Crenshaw District and from Southwest LA to the Northeast Valley.  Here is just some of the feedback we heard from community leaders at those meetings:

  • "We partner with families and with schools to change how schools work so all students can be successful. We need your help to connect the over 1,000 families we work with to access the Internet."

  • "Our organization’s mission is to increase low-income girls’ interest and success in technology. Bringing the Internet into their homes will allow them to learn technical skills at home as well as in school, and fully experience the power of technology."

  • "We need your support to our clients to open lines of communication to online learning centers and access to broadband. Many we serve are isolated and non-English speaking and I know Comcast will be greatly appreciated and received in East LA."

We are ready to get going, and we know there is a huge amount of work ahead of us. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent (2013) American Community Survey, only 57 percent of low-income households in California with household incomes below $35,000 now subscribe to wireline broadband at home, as compared to 78 percent for the general population."

In Southern California, diverse communities such as South Los Angeles, East L.A., Long Beach, and North Hollywood experience some of the greatest need as they struggle to keep up with fast changing digital landscape in schools, work, and life.  According to a recent report using 2013 federal data, for the first time, the majority of public school students now come from low-income families.  And the opportunity gap will widen for these families, unless we take action now.

Internet Essentials was designed to ensure that families can access the digital resources their children need to extend their studies outside of school, and do their homework at home.  For the communities of Southern California, no such program exists, and we welcome the opportunity to start building the school and community partnerships that will allow Internet Essentials to grow, and for low-income families to get connected at home, many for the first time.

After four years of running the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, in cities such as Miami, Chicago, Denver, Houston, and Fresno, we know what it takes to get this groundbreaking initiative up and running in our local communities. It takes hard work, dedication, teamwork, adaptability, and a continuous commitment to improvement.

With the approval of the proposed Time Warner-Charter transaction, we look forward to bringing Internet Essentials — and the commitment we’ve shown elsewhere in the country — to Southern California.

Based on the overwhelmingly positive response we have received at these meetings, we know we have the community support needed to truly impact the lives of school-aged children and their families who do not currently have Internet service in their homes.  Internet Essentials represents the best of what can happen when the private sector partners directly with the people who live, work, and go to school, in the communities we serve — a positive change for the better.  This is the core of Comcast’s community investment philosophy — help to build communities that thrive.