Joint Center and Comcast Host FCC Chairman for Forum on Broadband Connectivity and the Economy
This afternoon at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., I had the privilege of joining FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and broadband policy and research experts to discuss the impact of technology on the American economy and strategies to connect the underserved. The forum was part of Comcast's year two Washington, D.C. kick off of Internet Essentials, our ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program designed to help close the digital divide for low-income Americans — a program that is now gaining serious traction in some of America's poorest neighborhoods.
This morning, I was at Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C. where I was joined by Mayor Vincent Gray, Kramer Middle School Principal Kwame Simmons, WRC President and GM Jackie Bradford and former NFL Coach and new Internet Essentials spokesman Tony Dungy to highlight new enhancements to the program and to distribute hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies and information on Internet Essentials to students in conjunction with the NBC4 Backpacks 4 Kids program. We were also joined by City Year co-founder and CEO Michael Brown, who renewed the organization's strong support for Internet Essentials by pledging to mobilize its vast network of stakeholders, alumni and supporters to bring information about the program to the families and communities where it is most needed.
Today, I was also happy to announce two new partnerships with the U.S. Department of Labor and Connect2Compete we will implement later this fall. Thanks to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' leadership and commitment to digital literacy, we will be able to ensure we have information available about Internet Essentials at the American Job Centers across Comcast's 39- state footprint. In partnership with Connect2Compete, we will be able to offer our Internet Essentials customers an opportunity to purchase a low-cost high value desktop or laptop through its partner Redemtech, as an alternative to the low-cost high value netbook we make available directly through our hardware partners.
Our world is digital and broadband adoption is crucial to the success of the American economy and the nation's future. A recent study by the Leichtman Research Group, whose Bruce Leichtman was part of the Joint Center's panel today, showed that while 90% of American homes with computers are connected to broadband, many low-income families lack computers and access to broadband. From the beginning, Internet Essentials has offered a low-cost option to families to purchase a home computer by offering families a voucher to purchase an internet ready, netbook computer for $149.99 and our new partnership with Connect2Compete will offer families a choice of equipment at an affordable price, which is critical as we work together to bridge the digital divide.
To date, more than 100,000 families (or about 400,000 low-income Americans) nationwide — including approximately 2,000 families (or 8,000 residents) in the Washington, D.C. market — have been connected to the Internet (most of them for the first time) through Internet Essentials. In its second year, Comcast continues to enhance the program with new features and processes designed to accelerate enrollment.
Increasing broadband adoption has been a key priority for the FCC under Chairman Genachowski's leadership, and today at the Joint Center he emphasized the necessity of broadband in order for low-income families to participate in our 21st century economy. Afterwards, a panel of industry leaders and policy experts discussed the new, digital American economy, technological disparities, and the initiatives working to connect the country.
As we've launched the program in cities across the country, we've worked closely with school districts and over 1,000 community-based organizations to distribute more than 22 million pieces of literature about the program, 98% of which were bilingual. And as students across the nation returned to school this year, we embarked on an aggressive, multi-city tour to promote and publicize the Internet Essentials program and talk about what we've learned and the enhancements we've made. Over the coming months, we'll continue these outreach and education efforts, because the fact remains that far too many Americans, many from low-income families, are still not connected to the Internet and taking advantage of all that it has to offer.
Of all our learnings, however, the key one appears to be that Internet Essentials is working. With the help of our government, school district, non-profit organization, community groups, and faith based organizations, we have begun to move the needle in conquering the digital divide.