Today in Chicago, Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) presented Comcast with a Signature Accolade Award for public service for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. This is the second year in a row WICT has recognized Internet Essentials with this award. According to WICT, the award is "designed to shine a spotlight on… superlative public service programs in support of initiatives that positively impact women."

Internet Essentials is the most ambitious community investment initiative we have ever launched at Comcast. And its success is truly remarkable – 450,000 families; 1.8 million low-income Americans – connected to the Internet through this amazing program.

So why is this program a WICT priority? Well, according to our own research, three-fourths of the applications we have accepted came from women who are the decision-makers in their households.

Over the past four years, I have personally met with dozens and dozens of mothers all across the country who didn’t have access to the Internet at home. Every single one has a story to tell. A few might break your hearts, but most I find to be inspiring. Each one reinvigorates me and renews my belief in this program because I’ve seen first-hand what a huge difference having high-speed Internet service at home can have.

While we are truly honored to accept this award, at Comcast, we are firm believers that it is better to give than to receive. So, rather than just accept the award from WICT, we decided to take the occasion to "pay it forward" and celebrate the story of just one of the amazing women who I have been fortunate enough to meet during my travels.

Her name is Gale Woods. She and her son Austin live on the south side of Chicago in a neighborhood called "Bronzeville." A few years ago, Gale heard about Internet Essentials after seeing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and I announce the program at a televised press conference. She was thrilled that Comcast was planning to make broadband Internet service available at home to eligible families like hers for $9.95 a month. When she later saw a brochure about the program in a local library, she called and enrolled.

Gale is a mother of three. She has two sons and a daughter. Today, her son Austin is in seventh grade. Her older son and daughter have moved out and started their adult lives. During the day, Gale works at a temp agency, but at night and on weekends she attends college part time at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

Gale was inspired to go to college later in life when her eldest daughter was nearing her own college graduation. And she engaged in the college application process – and felt she could handle the college work – through her home Internet service, courtesy of Internet Essentials. Gale’s dream is to get a dual degree – one in business management and the other in education – and ultimately teach business management courses. Today, Gale is about half way through getting her undergraduate degree. She’s made it this far despite the financial and logistical challenges – thanks to a handful of small scholarships – but there’s always some uncertainty and stress about whether she’ll be able to get more funding.

So, we invited Gale to the award ceremony, and we asked her to share her story with the audience. I’m pleased to be able to share it with you as well.

What we didn’t tell Gale until the ceremony, however, was that we were going to give her our first ever "Internet Essentials Gold Medal Achievement Award." This came in the form of a check for $25,000, which is about what it will cost for two more years of tuition and fees at Northeastern. It’ll be a great day for her kids to see their mother graduate from college, and I’ll be forever proud to know that Internet Essentials and Comcast played a role in helping her make her dream come true.