Comcast’s flagship program in this effort is Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband access initiative. In the first 22 months of the program, we have connected nearly 220,000 families to the web — most for the first time — benefiting an estimated 900,000 low-income Americans nationwide; distributed more than 18,000 computers for less than $150 each; and provided in-person training for nearly 20,000 people. These resources help lay the foundation for digital literacy, a skill set we believe is vital for everyone.
Although we’ve made great progress, millions of Americans remain disconnected from the benefits that technology makes possible. This lack of access makes it harder to apply for jobs, seize educational opportunities, and register for basic services. We know we have more to do to expand access to information and help people build the skills to use it.
To rise to that challenge, Comcast is working with educators at more than 30,000 schools in 39 states to expand Internet Essentials. Our employees also work with nearly 7,000 community-based organizations, government agencies, and elected officials to ensure eligible families are aware of the program. Since its launch, the Internet Essentials website and learning portal has received 1.2 million hits.
"There’s nothing more important than the personal empowerment of kids," says Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. "For us to unlock the full potential of learning, we need to eliminate the restrictions that students face. Internet Essentials leads me to believe that we have the power, the wisdom, and the will to reinvent America into a better version of itself."
To help prepare more people for computer-related jobs, we also offer advanced digital skills training — such as digital media production and computer networking — through the Comcast Digital Connectors program. In tandem with Internet Essentials, this program teaches low-income youths between the ages of 14 and 21 the fundamentals of technology and how to put it to use.
Graduates of the Comcast Digital Connectors program receive a Certificate of Course Completion in IT Essentials for PC Hardware and Software from CISCO, plus a complimentary notebook PC to take back to their communities — where we expect them to share their newfound knowledge and spread the impact of their learning. More than 650 students in 41 U.S. cities graduated from the Digital Connectors program during the 2011–12 school year, and nearly 1,900 students have graduated from the program to date.
In 2012, Comcast also became the lead sponsor of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Club Tech program, which incorporates technology training into core club programs. Club Tech teaches young people practical skills they can use to move ahead — whether by setting up their first email account or studying for college entrance exams online.
We support Club Tech at more than 2,000 club locations across the country, serving about 500,000 students in 2012. Out of this group, 13 exemplary teens also received recognition for their achievements in digital expression — from gaming to music and film — at the Club Tech Digital Arts Festival hosted at our corporate headquarters in Philadelphia.
"Right now, the digital divide creates a chasm between those who are truly empowered and those who miss out," Alberto says. "We must work to erase it within our lifetime — not tomorrow, but today."