BOSTON, Nov. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- With the start of the new school year, Comcast is re-launching Internet Essentials, the nation's largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption initiative for low-income families. Today, Comcast representatives, local Elected Officials and Northeastern University joined with more than 200 Boston Public Schools students, teachers and administrators to kick off the program's third year and announced that, in about 24 months, more than 1 million low-income Americans or 250,000 families nationwide now have a broadband connection at home. This includes more than 6,000 families and about 24,000 individuals in Massachusetts.
Today's event in Boston is one in a series of events Comcast is hosting in 23 states across the country to raise visibility about bridging the digital divide in America and connecting more families to the Internet.
"I want to congratulate Comcast for all they are doing here in Boston and all across the nation to help students and their families bridge the digital divide,'' said Boston City Councilor-At-Large-elect Michael Flaherty. "Having affordable broadband access and computers in the home is such a game-changer for so many low-income families who would otherwise lag behind. Bridging the gap through partnerships within the community – in this case, with Northeastern, the Boston Public Schools and political leaders - is also a Comcast hallmark and I look forward to doing what I can to ensure the success of Internet Essentials in our city.''
"I'd like to congratulate Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Schools for having made the Internet Essentials program such a resounding success," said Steve Hackley, Senior Vice President of Comcast's Greater Boston region. "Cities like Boston are helping connect their students and families to a stronger future of opportunities that will help increase success from an academic standpoint and help provide each family with new possibilities."Comcast and Northeastern University also announced a multifaceted partnership designed to increase awareness of the importance of closing the digital divide through Public Service Announcements on Comcast's lineup throughout most of New England as well as digital literacy training sessions scheduled throughout the City of Boston. " Northeastern is proud to be part of this meaningful initiative that breaks down barriers and gives students and families access to the Internet and the future," said John Tobin, Vice President of City and Community Affairs at Northeastern University. "Regardless of income and demographics, everyone deserves access to information and opportunity." Hackley added, "We're thrilled to team up with Northeastern University, one of the country's leading universities focused on experiential learning. The combination of neighborhood- based training sessions implemented by university volunteers coupled with Public Service Announcements on our advanced fiber network is a model for corporate-academic collaboration. We look forward to watching this partnership develop and produce great results as both institutions are focused on working together to help close the digital divide." The momentum of Internet Essentials continues to increase. Since the program's launch in August 2011, Internet Essentials has enrolled upwards of 50,000 new families every six months. In the first six months of 2013, 70,000 new families have signed up. In addition, Comcast has distributed more than 18,000 subsidized computers; trained nearly 20,000 people; publicized the program in more than 4,000 school districts and more than 30,000 schools; broadcast nearly 2 million public service announcements and partnered with nearly 7,000 community based organizations, agencies, and officials to help spread the word about the program. 2013 Internet Essentials Enhancements: To increase enrollment and continue to help close the digital divide in America, Comcast continues to enhance Internet Essentials. This year we have:
- 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.