Atlanta back-to-school event kicks off Comcast’s national plan to provide up to six months of complimentary broadband service to eligible families
“Internet Essentials Day” marked by significant technology donation to students at Peyton Forest Elementary School as community pledges to close Atlanta’s and Georgia’s digital divide; nearly 25,000 families or 100,000 Georgians have benefitted since 2011 program launch
ATLANTA (Aug. 4, 2014) — Atlanta’s low-income families who lack Internet access at home will receive some welcome news on this first day of school as Comcast is announcing a plan to provide up to six months of complimentary service for any new family that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4th and September 20th, 2014 will receive up to six months of Internet service.
At a 1:30 p.m. press conference that will feature the state’s political and educational leaders, Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal will join Comcast EVP David L. Cohen, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen, and Dr. Steven Lee, Atlanta Board of Education Member for District 5 at Peyton Forest Elementary School in Atlanta to announce the promotion, the donation of free laptop computers to all 147 of the school’s 4th and 5th grade students, and to draw attention to a digital divide that has left many Georgia families without access at a time when the Internet has become vital to learning.
Comcast is also announcing an amnesty program for certain low-income families who could qualify for Internet Essentials, but have a past due balance. Customers who have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old are now eligible for the program. Comcast will offer amnesty for that debt for the purpose of connecting to Internet Essentials, so long as the customer meets all the other eligibility criteria.
Launched in 2011, Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, providing low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month plus tax, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150, and free digital literacy training. Since its start, Internet Essentials has connected 350,000 families, or about 1.4 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet. It is available in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Nearly 100,000 Georgians – or 25,000 families in the state – have benefitted from the Internet Essentials program, an important achievement as broadband access becomes an increasingly vital educational resource for students of all ages. Atlanta boasts the second highest number of Internet Essentials sign-ups across all Comcast markets.
“Internet Essentials is about transforming lives and inspiring a new generation of leaders to be digitally ready to access the information and tools all students need to succeed in the 21st century,” said Cohen. “By offering up to six months of free Internet Essentials service, along with an amnesty program, we hope to convince even more families that there is no better school supply than having broadband Internet at home. With it, kids can do their homework and parents can be more connected to their children’s teachers and schools.”
“I know first-hand how critical it is that we prepare our children inside and outside the classroom to succeed in learning and in life,” said Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal. “As a teacher, I didn’t just teach to one child. I taught to every student in the class, and that is also the goal of Internet Essentials: to ensure every child can build digital literacy skills that benefit them in the classroom and in life.”
“In just three years, our Internet Essentials program has made a positive difference for thousands of low-income families across Georgia, providing a level playing field for those most in need of broadband access,” said Andy Macke, vice president of government affairs at Comcast. “This school year, our goal is to connect another 5,000 families in Georgia, helping to further our mission of promoting digital literacy in the communities in which we live and work. We look forward to partnering with APS officials and our elected leaders to make this quest a reality.”
“It is clear that we have a great deal of work ahead of us if we are to bridge the digital divide in Georgia,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen. “In Atlanta alone, we simply have too many families without Internet access, which encumbers students’ ability to keep up with their daily school work. On behalf of Atlanta Public Schools, we are thrilled to join Comcast in its goal of connecting 5,000 families to the Internet this year.”
Throughout the back to school season, Comcast will actively engage with parents, teachers, non-profit partners and elected officials to help spread the word to low-income families about the program. The Company plans to air an unprecedented number of public service announcements (PSAs) that promote the new, up to six months free offer, and to focus on schools where 100 percent of students receive a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program and can therefore automatically apply. Comcast will also continue to offer families the option to purchase a computer at less than $150, as well as provide access to free digital literacy training online, in print and in person.
Since 2011, Comcast and the Comcast Foundation have dedicated more than $200 million in cash and in-kind support to fund digital readiness initiatives nationwide, reaching more than 1.75 million people through non-profit, digital literacy partners. In 2013, Comcast announced its largest non-profit collaboration to date with Khan Academy to bring free, world-class online educational content to more low-income families. Khan Academy offers a personalized online learning experience to students, in subjects from basic math to physics, biology, economics, art history, computer science, health and medicine and more. Khan Academy has provided 400 million lessons and learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems. Comcast has committed to airing hundreds of thousands of PSAs for and providing significant digital promotion, in both English and Spanish, of Khan Academy and its educational resources.
In March, Comcast announced the indefinite continuation of Internet Essentials, well beyond its original three-year commitment. The program’s impact continues to grow as the company works to expand its national and local efforts to address the digital divide for eligible students and families. Since its launch in 2011 to the end of June 2014, Comcast has:
- Sold nearly 30,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
- Distributed nearly 37 million Internet Essentials brochures at no cost.
- Broadcast more than 4 million public service announcements, valued at nearly $51 million.
- Welcomed nearly 2.2 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and the Online Learning Center.
- Fielded more than 2.3 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
- Offered Internet Essentials in more than 30,000 schools and 4,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- Partnered with thousands of community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.
- Dedicated $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of non-profit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami and Seattle, among others.
Based on customer surveys, we have also learned a lot about what customers think about having Internet Essentials.
- 98% said they would recommend the program to friends and families.
- 97% said they use the service so their kids can do homework.
- 90% said they were satisfied with the program.
- 82% said they use the service every day or almost every day.
Comcast and the Comcast Foundation have also made significant investments in nationwide digital readiness, training, and safety programs with partners like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The Arc. These partnerships integrate digital readiness education into program curricula and offer the disabilities community a better and safer opportunity to access and be empowered by digital technologies. Also, the Comcast Digital Connectors program has trained and certified thousands of youth in Internet and computer skills across the U.S.