For many low-income veterans and families the digital divide has been as wide as trying to traverse the Grand Canyon. For some that has changed.
On August 15 Comcast surprised 150 low-income veterans with free laptops and announced a $25,000 grant to Southwest Solutions for a mobile computer lab and WiFi access points at its Piquette Square location for veterans.
The company made the announcement at Southwest Solutions. The event was attended by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast NBCUniversal.
The mobile lab will provide more flexibility to train local residents. The new WiFi access points will help boost the facility’s Internet signal so even more people can get online.
Later in the day, Comcast also surprised 100 youth with free laptop computers at City Covenant Church in Detroit.
“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” says Cohn.
U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, ambassadors for the company’s corporate values initiatives, accompanied Cohen during his Detroit visit to raise awareness of the Internet Essentials program. Both were instrumental in Team USA’s defeat of Canada for the gold in the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang and are passionate advocates for gender equity.
Comcast says it is significantly expanding eligibility for Internet Essentials to include all qualified low-income households in its service area. The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history, and the company estimates a total of nearly seven million households now have access to low-cost Internet service, which literally doubles the total number of previously eligible households.
“The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource,” says Cohn “Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”
Since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than eight million low-income individuals, from two million households, to the Internet at home, most for the first time. This includes nearly 440,000 individuals in Michigan, which ranks seventh in terms of overall participation of the program. The announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income veterans.
To be eligible to apply for the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different federal assistance programs. A full list can be found at www.internetessentials.com.
Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to every-day life needs, and fear of the Internet; the lack of a computer, and cost of Internet service.
The program includes multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in person; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150, and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. Internet Essentials is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.
For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.