Each year, we strive to make Internet Essentials bigger and better than it was the year before. 2019 was no exception, and it’s going to be tough to beat. In August, we announced the most sweeping eligibility change in the program’s eight-year history. We are now offering the life-changing potential of an Internet connection to all low-income Americans, wherever Comcast offers service. We also crossed a major milestone – having connected, since 2011, more than eight million low income Americans to the power of the Internet at home, roughly 90 percent of whom were not connected prior to joining the program.
The expansion opens the door to the transformative power of the Internet to millions of additional households – including those with disabilities and all seniors, regardless of whether they live in one of our pilot markets, and adults without school-aged children.
The benefits to connecting low-income people with disabilities are arresting. According to research, people with disabilities are about three times more likely to say they never go online. They’re also nearly 20 percentage points less likely to subscribe to broadband at home.
As I reflect on the end of the year, I’m proud of all we accomplished together – our employees working hand in hand with our with our non-profit and governmental partners.
I think we can all agree that the Internet is the most important technological innovation of the modern age. It has fundamentally changed the way we learn, work, live, shop, play, and communicate.
The cruel irony of the digital divide, however, is that the more broadband technology advances, the further behind it leaves people without a connection at home – who happen to be the very people who would most benefit from the equalizing potential of the Internet.
Since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $650 million in digital skills training, benefiting nearly 9.5 million people, so they can better understand the benefits of being connected and learn how to take advantage of the world of opportunity that the Internet provides.
In that time, Internet Essentials has provided 100,000 heavily discounted and subsidized laptop or desktop computers – when we are not giving them away for free.
While all these statistics are amazing, they can be mind-numbing. The real impact of the program is felt through the families and individuals whose lives have been positively affected.
As I traveled the country this year to talk about the digital divide and Internet Essentials, I met so many students, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities whose stories broke my heart, but also gave me hope.
This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, to meaningfully expand Internet access and significantly close the digital divide for low-income people. This doesn’t mean our work is done, however. We now have the opportunity to form new partnerships with organizations that reach populations we’ve never served before and the possibilities are endless.
But don’t just take my word for it. Watch this video to see just how exciting it can be when people are given the opportunity to participate in the digital world.