Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Comcast Executive Vice President, David L. Cohen, and civic and community leaders Aug. 15 announced year two of Internet Essentials, an ambitious and comprehensive broadband adoption program designed to help close the digital divide among low-income Americans.
In its first full year of availability, nearly 100,000 families, or 400,000 Americans, gained access to the Internet at home, and Comcast continues to enhance the program with new features and processes designed to accelerate enrollment in the program. Nearly 7,000 families signed on in Chicago alone, and more than 15,000 have signed on across the region, which includes much of Illinois, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.
"It is imperative that Chicago become a more digitally connected city so all of our children have the same opportunities and our adults can find jobs and help grow the city's economy," said Mayor Emanuel. "I am focused on closing the digital divide throughout our city and ensuring that every family in Chicago can benefit from getting online at home. Having widespread Internet access throughout our homes and in our neighborhoods will help the city move forward and ensure that our children have brighter opportunities in the future."
David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President, added, "I'd like to congratulate Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools for having made the Internet Essentials program such a resounding success. Cities like Chicago are making a tangible difference in the lives of their students and families who are now able to go online at home and access the endless resources the Internet has to offer."
New in 2012:
Since Internet Essentials launched, Comcast has made a number of program enhancements including:
-Expanded eligibility criteria to include families with children eligible to receive reduced price school lunches under the National School Lunch Program. This means nearly 300,000 additional households are now eligible for the program, bringing the total to 2.3 million eligible families;
-Doubled broadband speeds to up to 3 Mbps downstream and up to 768 Kbps upstream;
-Upgraded the free Internet safety software to include the Constant Guard Protection Suite, which includes top-rated Norton Security Suite, identity theft protection and more;
-Enriched digital literacy training efforts both online and in-person, including offering a series of short videos, featuring NBC and Telemundo news personalities Al Roker, Kate Snow, Jenna Wolfe and Jose Diaz-Balart, discussing how to use job search tools and social networking site as well as tips for what parents should know about cyber bullying;
-Streamlined the approval process by providing an instant approval process for all students who attend schools with the highest percentage of NSLP participation, which includes Provision 2 schools;
-Introduced a bulk order program that empowers community-based organizations to purchase Internet Essentials accounts so they can connect the eligible families they serve.
Internet Essentials Program Details:
-Internet Essentials addresses three primary barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified — a lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful, the cost of a home computer and the cost of the Internet service. Program participants receive:
-Residential Internet service for $9.95 a month plus applicable taxes;
-No price increases, no activation fees, or equipment rental fees;
-A voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax; and
-Access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.
A household is eligible to participate if it meets all of the following criteria:
-Is located where Comcast offers Internet service;
-Has at least one child who is eligible to receive a free or reduced school lunch under the NSLP;
-Has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days;
-Does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program for at least three years, through the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Any household that qualifies during this three-year period will remain eligible for Internet Essentials if at least one child eligible for a free or reduced lunch remains living in the household. In Chicago, Comcast is working with a growing network of more than 1,100 community-based organizations, school districts, faith-based organizations, elected officials and others to spread the word about Internet Essentials and provide digital literacy training. In addition, since inception, Comcast has sponsored or participated in nearly 200 events to spread the word to those who could benefit from Internet Essentials.
For general information about Internet Essentials, please 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.