By now, I hope you’ve heard about Internet Essentials, Comcast’s broadband adoption initiative to help close the digital divide across the communities we serve. Through Internet Essentials, families with at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program can receive in-home Internet for $9.95 a month; the option to purchase a computer for under $150; and free digital literacy training in print, online or in-person.
When I first heard about Internet Essentials, it struck a chord. I thought of my upbringing in a local urban community and the opportunities I was granted thanks to my hardworking parents and the community that raised me. I lived in Southwest Philly until age 5, when we moved to Upper Darby, which borders West Philadelphia. My dad worked for AT&T as what we would call a "head-end tech," and my mom was a telephone operator—that’s how they met. (I guess you could say I am following in my family’s footsteps!) I was lucky enough to be raised in a house with books and provided with a solid education— way before the Internet was even an idea! Today, that’s not enough; you have to be on the web to be connected.
A few months later, I got wind of another new Comcast initiative, an Ambassadors Program designed to encourage employees to use their community ties, personal insight, and passion to expand Internet Essentials grassroots outreach. The Internet Essentials Ambassadors Program encourages Comcast employees to have a role in increasing broadband adoption, by volunteering their time to spread the word about Internet Essentials throughout the communities where they live, work, and where their children go to school. This was it. Here was a chance for me to get involved, for me to help kids that are growing up in the very place that I did but maybe didn’t have even the resources that we did.
After all, home Internet access is important for everyone, but especially for families with school-aged children; more and more students are asked to access and download assignments online and use the Internet to complete research projects. Students without access to the Internet at home have to rely on public computers in libraries and community centers, putting them at a disadvantage when compared to students with Internet at home.
To help make more students aware of this affordable broadband adoption program, I, along with Kevin Broadhurst, Senior Director of Government Affairs, acted as Ambassadors and reached out to the Upper Darby School District. We met with the superintendent, explaining the uniqueness of Internet Essentials and its potential impact on closing the digital divide. From there, a partnership developed. We spoke at an event for the district’s principals, we distributed Internet Essentials materials to the students, and we addressed student groups about job skills for the workforce.
To this day we continue to work with the Upper Darby School District to invest in our youth and get students online, so that they can use the power of the Internet to do homework, study for the SATs, and apply for colleges. Because of Internet Essentials, more than 5,700 families in the Greater Philadelphia metro are now connected.
Acting as an Ambassador for such a groundbreaking, life-changing program has been an incredible experience. Along with my fellow Ambassadors across the country — there are nearly 1,000 of us—we’ve volunteered 1,000 hours, reached more than 500 organizations, attended nearly 200 events, and spread the word about Internet Essentials to more than 77,000 people. And the Internet Essentials Ambassadors Program is still in its first year! We will keep working together to spread the word and get Americans connected to broadband. After all, we’re a company that innovates. Not just in media and technology, but in our communities. Another reason to be proud of Comcast!