Submitted by Comcast

Comcast today announced new steps to help advance digital equity for even more people in Whatcom County. Internet Essentials – the nation’s largest, most successful, and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income individuals – will now expand eligibility to nearly 5,000 Federal Pell Grant recipients throughout Whatcom County. These students, enrolled at the following three institutions, are now eligible to take advantage of Internet Essentials, which offers low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month (plus tax), the option to purchase a heavily subsidized, low-cost Internet-ready computer, and access to free digital literacy training:

  • Bellingham Technical College
  • Western Washington University
  • Whatcom Community College

Since 2011, the company, working in collaboration with its network of nonprofit partners, has connected more than 10 million people over the past ten years. Of that number, more than 15,200 are in Whatcom County. Bellingham comprised the bulk of that number, with 10,000 people connected through Internet Essentials over the decade. 

In addition, Comcast pledged to donate 500 laptops to low-income students, seniors, veterans, and adults in Washington state over the next several months. The announcement is part of Project UP, Comcast’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of unlimited possibilities; and comes while Comcast marks the 10th anniversary of its Internet Essentials program, which has connected a cumulative total of more than 10 million people to the Internet at home – most for the very first time.

These additional initiatives arrive as the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated far-reaching effects that disproportionately impact those who have traditionally lacked access to the tools, resources, and skills needed to get online. Compounding this reality is research showing low-income students and their families face numerous broadband adoption challenges, like housing insecurity, literacy challenges, language barriers, and broadband relevancy issues. As a result, Comcast’s digital equity efforts have been designed to address as many of these challenges as possible, including offering low-cost broadband Internet at home; the option to purchase a heavily subsidized, affordable computer; access to free WiFi in community centers nationwide; and numerous options to acquire the digital skills necessary to navigate distance learning and use the Internet.

“Digital equity is key to success in education and economic mobility, now and into the future” said Broderick Johnson, Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Executive Vice President, Digital Equity. “As our economic, medical, and educational systems become increasingly digital, it’s more important than ever that every American gets online. For those young people pursuing higher education, the expansion of IE eligibility to Pell Grant recipients is a real boost.  Through the announcements we are making today, we will help support the development of a workforce that has the digital skills necessary to adapt to rapid shifts in a fast-evolving economy.”

Federal Pell Grant Expansion:

Comcast’s expanded eligibility for Internet Essentials, to now include all Federal Pell Grant recipients within its service area, will enable even more students to stay connected as they continue to pursue degrees at colleges, universities, and technical schools. The Federal Pell Grant program, established in 1965, is the largest source of federal grant aid for students pursuing a postsecondary education.

“One thing this pandemic has taught us is the necessity of digital access for all students,” said Maureen Hoyler, President, Council for Opportunity in Education. “By expanding eligibility to include Pell Grant recipients, Internet Essentials has taken an important step towards helping low-income college students realize their postsecondary goals.”

Project UP – Building a Future of Unlimited Possibilities:

For over a decade, connecting more people to the Internet and the technology they need to participate and excel in an increasingly digital world has been a core focus for the company. Looking toward the next ten years, Comcast is building on that foundation and expanding its impact through Project UP, a comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of unlimited possibilities. Backed by a $1 billion commitment to reach 50 million people, Project UP encompasses the programs and community partnerships across Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Sky that connect people to the Internet, advance economic mobility, and open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators. For more information on Project UP and the latest news on efforts to address digital inequities, including the recent expansion of the Comcast RISE Investment Fund to provide millions in grants to small business owners of color and investment in research to increase diversity in the technology and digital fields, visit https://corporate.comcast.com/impact/project-up.

About Internet Essentials

Internet Essentials is Comcast’s signature digital equity initiative and the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. In 10 years, it has helped connect 10 million low-income Americans to broadband Internet at home, most for the very first time. It has a comprehensive design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption. This includes 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; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month, plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners. For more information about Internet Essentials and Comcast’s commitment to education and digital equity, please visit https://corporate.comcast.com/education. To apply, visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376 for English or 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

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