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One Mic Stand: Internet Essentials and Workforce Development

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

One Mic Stand

Lisa Birmingham, Vice President of External and Government Affairs for Comcast’s Keystone Region, talks about the impact of Internet Essentials to bring internet access to communities everywhere.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Comcast’s internet Essentials Program. During that time, Comcast has connected more than 10 million people to broadband internet, most for the very first time.

The program provides the tools and resources that low-income families need to succeed in a digital world. Comcast connected approximately 160,000 people in Allegheny County over the life of the program.

Internet Essentials has a comprehensive design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption:

  • Multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person.
  • The option to purchase a heavily subsidized, low-cost Internet-ready computer.
  • Low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month, plus tax.

Comcast will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years in these critical areas:

  • Additional support for our ongoing Lift Zone initiative with a goal of 1,000+ community centers nationwide for students and adults by end of 2021.
  • New laptop and computer donations.
  • Grants for nonprofit community organizations to create opportunities for low-income Americans, particularly in media, technology and entrepreneurship.
  • Continued investment in the IE program.

Over the past 10 years Comcast has:

  • Increased the program’s Internet speeds six times, from 1.5 Mbps in 2011 to 50 Mbps today, without ever increasing the price of the program, which has remained $9.95/month.
  • Launched its Lift Zones program, which aims to connect more than 1,000 community centers with free WiFi by the end of 2021.
  • Developed an Internet Essentials Partnership Program that has signed up hundreds of schools, school districts, and other organizations that have come together to help connect tens of thousands of students to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Offered 60 days of free Internet service to any new Internet Essentials customer who needed to get online during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Expanded the number of languages our Internet Essentials call center agents can speak to more than 240, plus American Sign Language, to help ensure we break down language barriers that can prevent people from applying or getting online.
  • Built up an online learning center that includes more than 200 digital literacy training videos, guides, and reports that are free to anyone to use, including non-customers.
  • Developed an employee network of 3,000 Internet Essentials Ambassadors who volunteer their time to help spread the word about the program in their communities.