With many U.S. schools in distance-learning mode due to COVID-19, Comcast has announced a newly expanded program aiming to get low-income students online.
The Internet Essentials Partnership Program, which began as a response to the pandemic in the spring, is aimed at helping kindergarten through 12th grade students connect to the internet from home. Since 2011, Comcast’s Internet Essentials offering has offered internet access for $9.95 a month. The company says it is the nation’s top low-income internet adoption program, with millions of connections to date.
In its initial form, the partnership program has signed up more than 70 schools across the U.S., getting more than 200,000 students online in Chicago, Atlanta, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Portland, and Arlington, VA.
Government officials and advocacy groups have identified the so-called “homework gap” in recent years, with a 2017 study finding that 12 million children lacked adequate internet access. With state and municipal budgets facing intense pressure due to the pandemic, their ability to fund broadband is far from a sure thing.
Comcast also said it is including its xFi platform for Essentials customers at no charge. The service enables parents to manage their children’s WiFi-connected devices and limit their time and movements online.
“We’ve seen firsthand that low-cost Internet access is an important part of improving digital equity and
creating positive opportunities for low-income students and families,” said Dana Strong, President of
Xfinity Consumer Services. “Through this new partnership program, we are accelerating the efforts of
cities, schools, philanthropies, nonprofits, and private citizens to collaborate and open the doors of
Internet access for more families in need.”
Comcast also said it will convene a series of virtual national and regional summits this fall on the topic of “the challenges of broadband adoption.”
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