Closing the Digital Divide, One Family at a Time

August 18, 2013

By Emily Pickren

NLC corporate partner Comcast has re-launched Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income families.  The program provides low-cost broadband service and the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150. The program also offers access to free digital literacy training in print, online, and in-person.

Internet Essentials is now kicking off its third year. Since its inception, the program has provided broadband access to more than 220,000 families, and benefitted an estimated 900,000 low-income people in cities and towns nationwide. A household can participate if it has at least one child that is eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). For families with children at schools where 70 percent or more of the students are eligible for the NSLP, Comcast has streamlined enrollment for Internet Essentials by expanding the instant approval process.

NLC advocates for accessible and affordable broadband services for all because of the educational and economic development opportunities it can provide. Comcast works with community-based organizations as well as national organizations such as NLC to spread the word about the benefits of digital literacy, and to connect more families to the internet.

Jacquelyn Puente, Senior Director of External Affairs at Comcast recently spoke at NLC’s Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) summer leadership retreat about Internet Essentials. Her intent was to make sure local officials were aware of the program, and in turn could provide their constituents with information on options for low-cost Internet access and free digital literacy training.   

Broadband Internet access allows families “to get ahead in work, education, and life, just by doing things online that many of us take for granted, such as completing homework, applying for a job, researching a health condition, or paying a bill,” says David Cohen, Executive Vice President at Comcast. Research shows that the most popular use of the internet for Internet Essentials customers is doing homework (98 percent), followed by conducting general research (94 percent). Fifty-eight percent of Internet Essentials customers use their Internet service to search and apply for employment.

Since the program’s launch in 2011, and with support from NLC, Internet Essentials enrolls approximately 50,000 new families every six months. In the last six months, 70,000 new families have signed up. “NLC is proud to partner with Comcast and support the work they are doing to erase the disparity in broadband adoption between low- and upper-income residents in communities across the country,” says NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony. “Every family that participates in this program brings the country one step closer to bridging America’s digital divide.”