Advancing Project UP’s Goals for Students
From coast to coast, teachers and families are preparing for their students to head back to school, and the most important school supply they need is a home Internet connection. Students today rely on the Internet to complete much of their homework – from researching and submitting papers, to completing worksheets, to interacting virtually with their teachers. Yet millions of students and families still lack a home Internet connection.
To help address this, I recently traveled to four cities across the U.S. to meet with local partners and government officials, to advocate for, and support connectivity, initiatives, and to raise awareness for the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides families with a $30/month benefit ($75/month on Tribal lands) toward their Internet bill. Across Portland, Tacoma, Fort Wayne, and Houston, Comcast announced nearly $700,000 in investments, we gave away more than 500 laptops, and we opened two Lift Zones to increase community connectivity. Many of these resources will directly support students as they begin the 2023-2024 school year.
Since the ACP ’s launch nearly two years ago, Comcast has been committed to raising awareness about this ambitious funding program, which, when applied to Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus tiers, makes home Internet effectively free. Recently, the ACP passed the tremendous milestone of 20 million households enrolled, a remarkable achievement that we were excited to celebrate. But that leaves nearly 30 million qualified households who are not yet taking advantage of this important benefit.
With millions of college students also headed back to school and moving into dorm rooms and apartments with their roommates, Comcast is offering exclusive deals and spreading the word about ACP eligibility – which includes Pell Grant recipients. The benefit could save students up to $360 a year, making it easier to pay for other necessities like text books and meal plans. We’re also taking this effort on the road with our 2023 Xfinity HBCU Tour, including stops at colleges like Delaware State University and Howard University.
Through Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to reach tens of millions of people to advance digital equity and economic mobility, my colleagues and I are working all across the country with community partners and local officials to continue to raise awareness about the ACP and empower individuals with the digital skills they need to succeed and thrive.
By partnering with nonprofit organizations and government at every level, we can support the next generation of students, entrepreneurs, and storytellers, and thereby help pave the way for them to achieve their highest potential and reach unlimited possibilities.
The start of a new school year can be both an exhilarating and stressful time. And, as was made so abundantly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, unless we help ensure all students are equipped with a home Internet connection, along with devices and digital literacy skills, the digital divide will remain a formidable barrier to achieving educational equity.
Broderick D. Johnson is Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity for Comcast Corporation.