Comcast made several announcements that build on its longstanding commitment to advancing digital equity, closing the digital divide, and addressing both digital literacy and the homework gap. The new and expanded efforts are designed to help connect as many Americans to the Internet as possible and create new opportunities for underrepresented communities through the education, resources, and skills training they need to succeed in today’s digital economy.
“We’ve been on a mission to address digital inequities in under-resourced communities through Internet Essentials for a decade and there’s never been a greater need than now,” said Dave Watson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable. “As a media and technology company, we have a unique opportunity to provide meaningful connection to the communities we serve – whether that’s through access to the Internet, programs to support creativity and digital literacy and skills training for young people, or workforce development opportunities for adults. Our commitment has never been stronger, and we are dedicated to leveling the playing field and making a lasting impact for generations to come.”
In 2020, Comcast redoubled those efforts, as COVID-19 shined an even brighter light on this important equity issue in our society. And at the onset of 2021 – which coincides with the 10th anniversary of its Internet Essentials program – the company is once again advancing its digital equity commitment.
Accelerating the Nation’s Largest Broadband Adoption Program
For more than a decade, Comcast has focused on connecting millions of low-income families to the Internet through Internet Essentials, the largest and most comprehensive low-cost Internet adoption program for low-income Americans. Since 2011, Comcast has connected millions of people to the Internet at home, donated tens of thousands of free laptops to students and families across the country, and invested $700 million in digital literacy, skills training and awareness programs that have reached 11 million people. Comcast is now doubling the program’s Internet download speed to 50 Mbps and increasing the upstream speed to 5 Mbps for all new and existing customers at no additional cost. To receive the increased Internet speeds, existing customers will not need to do anything. The new speeds will be rolled out nationally beginning March 1. This is the sixth time in 10 years that Comcast has increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of the service at $9.95 a month. In addition, Comcast rolled out its xFi and xFi Advanced Security product features to Internet Essentials customers for free and the company continues to offer 60 days of free service to any new Internet Essentials customer who signs up before June 30, 2021.
Launching 1,000 Lift Zones by December 2021
Comcast recently announced a multiyear program to launch more than 1,000 Lift Zones in community centers across the country by working with its network of thousands of nonprofit partners and city leaders. So far, Comcast has installed several hundred Lift Zones to further address the homework gap. Lift Zones provide safe spaces for students to access free WiFi so they can participate in distance learning and do their schoolwork. Comcast is now accelerating that timeline to connect 1,000 Lift Zones by the end of this year – more than a year ahead of its original plan.
“Transforming our Boys & Girls Clubs into Lift Zones has made a huge difference in the lives of the students we serve in Philadelphia,” said Lisabeth Marziello, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. “Many of the kids who come to our clubs either don’t have the Internet at home or they have it, but they can’t study at home for a variety of reasons and they need somewhere to go. We’re so happy to be able to work with Comcast to give our students a safe, clean space where they can stay in school even when schools are closed.”
Investing in Education and Equity-Focused Organizations
Comcast is also expanding its targeted philanthropic investments in organizations working to increase digital equity and contributing to the collective action needed to drive sustained change. These new organizations and investments are focused on creating greater pathways to opportunities for communities of color, particularly in media, technology, arts, and entrepreneurship.
Since last year, Comcast has committed more than $40 million in cash to education and equity-focused partners that share the company’s goals of advancing social justice and equality. A selection of these partners include Per Scholas, Coded by Kids, Center for Black Innovation, Inner-City Arts, and BUILD.org. As part of the $40 million, Comcast today announced $3.5 million in commitments to partners including CodePath, Genesys Works, Jobs for the Future, NPower, i.c. stars, Opportunity at Work, Goodwill Industries International, YWCA, and Philadelphia Youth Network. Together, Comcast and its partners are helping more people of color gain the education and critical workforce development skills needed to access career opportunities in media and technology.
“Comcast’s investment in CodePath will help us double our impact to reach nearly 5,000 students and over 60 university partners in 2021. As disadvantaged communities struggle with mass job losses in the wake of the pandemic, our courses are one of the few holistic programs placing thousands of underrepresented minorities into our nation’s most competitive technical roles,” said Michael Ellison, Co-Founder and CEO of CodePath. “Through partnerships with CodePath and many other dedicated organizations, Comcast continues to demonstrate its commitment to creating tangible and systemic change, while providing new opportunities for people of color in the tech sector and beyond.”