This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Comcast, but it’s something that is near and dear to me and I’m excited to share with you.
We hear a lot of promises these days. Promises that this lotion will make you slimmer or that company will provide you with the very best argyle socks on the market. But, how refreshing is it when a company actually makes good on their promises? Comcast is doing just that.
I was sitting in on a meeting over a year ago when I heard Comcast’s plan to “close the digital divide”. I listened hopefully, as this was a cause that means a whole lot to me since access to the internet and technology is truly essential in this day and age. It wasn’t even a few minutes into the meeting when I realized Comcast was truly putting its money where its mouth was, so to speak. I listened as the Lamoureux twins shared how they had spent the morning gifting laptops and complimentary service plans to deserving recipients. I listened when Comcast execs shared how many lives had been changed thanks to their low-cost Internet Essentials plan that gives families in need access to the internet as well as technology services and even internet-ready laptops at cost.
I listened this week when Comcast announced that since 2011, more than 8 million low-income Americans have been connected to the Internet at home through the Comcast Internet Essentials program. 8 million homes, let that sink in for a minute. Even more impressive is that a whopping 90 percent of those 8 million were not already connected to the internet at home.
In Washington alone, nearly 340,000 residents across the state have access to the internet and the newest technology thanks to the Internet Essentials program. This number includes numerous classmates and friends of ours thanks to me freely handing out flyers and info to anyone who will take them, and I’m incredibly proud of that fact. I know how hard these families are working to make ends meet, and I know how important access to the internet is with kids in school, jobs to keep up, and everything else these days. It once was a luxury to have internet access, but that is definitely not the case anymore. The internet *is* essential.
Comcast partners with Goodwill to unveil a new state-of-the-art digital classroom
This past Friday, Spokane Mayor David Condon and Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, David L. Cohen met during events in Spokane, WA to talk about their new partnership. Seeing Internet Essentials and Goodwill team up is sort of like watching a movie where your favorite superheroes save the world together. Comcast being able to piggyback on existing Goodwill relationships is such an important step in closing the digital divide, and will bring them even closer to reaching their goal of offering Internet Essentials to all in need. This was the first collaboration between the two brands, and I’m hoping to see many more events like this happen all across Washington State, as is Comcast.
“We are thankful for the investment Comcast is making to bring to life Goodwill’s vision for a digital classroom that provides training in an inclusive and accessible environment to our community,” said Clark Brekke, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest. “As technology continues to advance and become a daily part of so many industries, more people need the skills to thrive in this employment environment. It is through partners like Comcast that our communities will be able to bridge the digital gap.”
In these events on Friday, they announced the largest eligibility expansion of Internet Essentials in Washington State. Comcast’s low-cost internet will now be available to double the number of eligible low-income households, including people with disabilities and seniors. Double! This is huge, folks. Twice as many Washington State residents will now benefit from low-cost internet as well as all the other many technology services they offer.
During the day of events, Comcast visited Spokane Goodwill with U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalist and Purple Heart Recipient Rico Roman. Together, Comcast and Goodwill unveiled a new interactive digital classroom that will facilitate digital literacy training for low-income people with disabilities, helping to ameliorate one of the major barriers to broadband adoption – a lack of digital skills. The new digital classroom is furnished with assistive technology to help different disabled individuals’ needs, such as adjustable tables on hydraulics and interactive learning and digital tools.
At the event, Comcast also presented a grant to the organization to help further close the digital divide. And, then Rico Roman helped Comcast surprise Goodwill program participants with 50 laptops and six months of complimentary Internet Essentials service. The vast majority of Goodwill’s program participants have some level of disability, are low-income, and many served in the military, which makes them eligible for Internet Essentials services.
I got a chance to speak to Rico Roman and hear more about him and his military service, including how his left leg was amputated above the left knee after an injury in his third tour to Iraq. When asked about Internet Essentials he said what an honor it was being there with Comcast and helping to hand out the computers to the recipients. He also spoke about veterans he knew whose lives have been dramatically changed thanks to Internet Essentials, and that’s why it’s a cause so close to his heart.
I also got a chance to speak with David L. Cohen and get an insiders look into the event from afar. I loved reading about his experience with Internet Essentials and hear how incredibly proud he is of the program. “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, 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. 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.”
To conclude the event, Cohen announced a surprise donation of 50 laptop computers and complimentary Internet Essentials service for Family Promise, one of the local nonprofits Mayor Condon championed. This will help recipients find and retain family-sustaining jobs, and ultimately help the local economy.
How you can help close the digital divide.
The #1 barrier to broadband adoption in low income homes is a fear of the new technology – many who don’t have internet don’t understand why they need it. Sometimes it’s not just about helping family and friends hear about Internet Essentials and sign up, it’s about helping them understand the newest technology. This is why I love the technology services that Comcast offers that helps explain and educate on the technology and offer training programs to those who need it.
The lack of affordable computer equipment is another barrier for low income homes, but Internet Essentials tackles this, too. The program offers free modems, internet-ready computers available for purchase, and of course, their amazing $9.95/month connectivity to help these families get everything they need to hop onto the internet. For families that aren’t able to afford the low–cost computers, Comcast hopes to create even more digital classrooms like the one they opened at the Goodwill store in Spokane at 130 E. 3rd Avenue. The hope is that they can use this classroom to teach basic digital tech skills and allow community members to come in to learn as well as to use the facilities to connect to the internet.
In the afternoon, Comcast brought together local business and civic leaders for an event to talk about how the community can collaborate to connect more low-income families and individuals with disabilities to the internet. They explained how 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 everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet; the lack of a computer; and cost of internet service. The program 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.