BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington was joined by Congressman Peter Welch and Comcast today as they hosted a special event to highlight the need to connect more families to the Internet and discuss efforts to bridge the digital divide in Vermont and across the country. Burlington Boys & Girls Club member and Vermont Youth of the Year Kabura Onesime also provided a personal account about the power of the internet and how being connected and understanding how to us it has made an impact on his life. Additionally, Comcast encouraged qualifying families to sign up for Internet Essentials with the recent start of the school year.
"In the 21 st century, affordable internet service is essential to the success of all families, especially students," said Congressman Welch. "The research, writing and technical skills gained online by young people are the very credentials they will need later in the workforce or as entrepreneurs starting new businesses. I applaud Comcast's Internet Essentials program for its leadership in bridging the digital divide by bringing the world of online access to families in need."
Now in its third year, Comcast's Internet Essentials program provides households with at least one child eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch under the National School Lunch Program with access to low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month – no price increases, no activation fees and no equipment rental fees. Families also can purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150 and access digital literacy training sessions and materials online, in print, and in person.
"Thanks to community partners like the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, elected officials like Congressman Welch and schools nationwide, in just over two years we have connected an estimated 1 million low-income individuals, or more than 250,000 families, to the Internet at home," said Mark Reilly, Comcast Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the company's Northeast Division. "They can now get ahead in work, education, and life, just by doing things online that many of us take for granted, such as completing homework, applying for a job, researching a health condition, or paying a bill. Together, with cities like Burlington, we are making real and significant progress in closing the digital divide in Vermont and across America."The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington and Comcast have partnered on a number of initiatives over the years that have had an impact on the community, including Internet Essentials and Digital Connectors, a technology program and service initiative that recently kicked off its fourth year at the Club and focuses on technology, financial literacy, media production, and leadership. "The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington is so grateful to Comcast for bringing the Internet Essentials and the Digital Connectors Programs to our community," said Mary Alice McKenzie, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington. "Comcast's commitment to breaking the barriers that prevent many children from having safe and consistent access to the internet is wonderful. Without access to the internet, children in our community can no longer get their homework done. Without proper instruction, children in our community cannot take full advantage of technology. Through Internet Essentials, Comcast provides affordable access to the internet. Through Digital Connectors, Comcast provides the tools so that children learn how to use, and be safe while using, the internet. Thank you Comcast from all of us at the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington!" While at the event, Comcast also highlighted enhancements that have been made to the Internet Essentials program this year, which are aimed at increasing enrollment and continuing to help close the digital divide in America. They include:
- Increased Speed - For the second time in two years, Comcast has increased its broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers up to 5 Mbps downstream and up to 1 Mbps upstream. The company has more than tripled the download speeds for Internet Essentials customers since the program's launch.
- Streamlined Enrollment – Comcast has further streamlined the enrollment process by expanding the instant approval process for families whose students attend schools where 70 percent or more of the students are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
- Expanded Eligibility – Comcast has expanded program eligibility criteria for the second time, to include parochial, private, cyberschool, and homeschooled students. Now, nearly 2.6 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.
- Created an Online Application Tool – On InternetEssentials.com and InternetBasico.com, it is now easier and faster for a family to apply for Internet Essentials. This convenient online request form is available in English and Spanish and can be accessed through any Internet-enabled computer, tablet, or smartphone. It can be used by families on computers at community centers, local libraries or at a friend's to request an application.
- Introduced Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards – Our community partners are now able to help connect low-income families to the Internet by purchasing Opportunity Cards that can be used toward the cost of paying for Internet Essentials service.
- 98 percent say their kids use the Internet for homework;
- 94 percent feel that Internet access at home has had a positive impact on their child's grades;
- 66 percent use the Internet for health care and government services; and
- 59 percent feel that the Internet helped someone in their household find a job.
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