We were excited, during yesterday’s announcement about the growth of Internet Essentials, to see that Puget Sound ranked 9th in the nation among urban areas for number of customers. Washington State ranked 8th among states. That’s a great showing.
“In just 16 months, Internet Essentials has helped put a real dent in the digital divide and connected more than 150,000 low-income families, or 600,000 Americans, to the power of the Internet, most for the first time in their lives,” said Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen. Internet Essentials is not just about broadband adoption, however. It’s also about what the Internet can do for families, from finding a job to completing homework to accessing vital healthcare resources. While we’re pleased with our progress to date, we have more work to do to bring more families into the digital age.”
To give you an idea what that means, there are about 600,000 people in the city of Seattle; imagine them all spread out over the country and connected through Internet Essentials.
In Puget Sound, more than 5,400 families are now online because of Internet Essentials, and in Washington State, including Spokane County, more than 8,000 families are connected.
If you want to put a face to what that means to a life, you can watch this KOMO TV report about a Seattle family that's online thanks to Internet Essentials.
Internet Essentials only gets larger, as was announced yesterday. New for Internet Essentials this year:
- Expanding eligibility criteria to include parochial, private and homeschool students. This brings the estimated total number of eligible families to nearly 2.6 million.
- Creating a convenient online application request form to improve and accelerate the application process. The online form makes it easier and faster than ever before to register. This spring, families will be able to use computers at community centers, local libraries or from a friend to request an application online.
- Introducing Opportunity Cards that enable non-profit organizations and others to pre-purchase Internet Essentials service in advance, for up to one year, for low-income families. This provides yet another way to accelerate enrollment by empowering community-based partners, businesses and foundations to help connect families to the Internet.
- Expanding low-cost computer options by offering customers the ability to purchase an Internet-ready desktop or laptop for less than $150, in addition to the netbooks that Comcast already offers. This partnership with Arrow (formerly Redemtech) was announced in the fall of 2012 and will be piloted in Philadelphia and Chicago before rolling out to other markets.
- Honoring the top 15 performing school districts with the Internet Essentials Gold Medal School District of Excellence Award to recognize the success of school districts nationwide and acknowledge their important role in helping to close the digital divide. In conjunction with the celebration of Comcast’s 50th anniversary later this year, each recognized district will be given 50 laptops for families or schools. Winners will be announced in the fall of 2013.
Internet Essentials provides low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in-person. Eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, and homeschool students.
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program through the end of the 2013-2014 school year. These households will remain eligible as long as one child eligible for a free or reduced lunch remains living in the household.
For general information about Internet Essentials, visit www.internetessentials.com for English, and visit www.internetbasico.com for Spanish. Educators or third-parties interested in helping to spread the word can find more information at www.internetessentials.com/partner. Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.