On the 10th anniversary of its Internet Essentials program, Comcast Washington announced that it has connected 204,000 low-income individuals across King County to broadband internet over the last decade, including 30,400 people in the city of Kent.
The company also unveiled new plans to support low-income residents with more digital tools and resources over the next decade, as a part of a $1 billion nationwide initiative to impact 50 million people.
This commitment consists of local investments in Washington state that include distributing more than $750,000 in funding, as well as computer and technology donations, to nonprofits serving disadvantaged Washingtonians, according to a March 24 Comcast press release.
Comcast will also invest in the growth of its Lift Zone initiative to establish Wi-Fi-connected safe spaces for those needing internet access in 80 community centers statewide by the end of 2021. The company has unveiled 30 Lift Zones in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Island and Spokane counties since fall 2020. These locations offer internet connectivity to students and families that lack broadband access in the home.
“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” said Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson in the press release. “Together, we have been able to connect millions of people to the power of the internet at home, and to the endless opportunity, education, growth, and discovery it provides. Today, we are rededicating ourselves to this mission to ensure that the next generation of students in America has the tools, resources, and abilities they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.”
In addition to the total number of connections Internet Essentials has provided, other key metrics about the program and its impact statewide include:
• Increased Internet Essentials 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.
• Participated in the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) K-12 Internet Access Program to help students and families connect to school online during the 2020-2021 school year.
• Developed an Internet Essentials Partnership Program that offers subsidized broadband service through hundreds of schools to help connect 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.
• Opened more than 70,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots for people to connect to during the current pandemic.
• Built 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 a national employee network of 3,000 Internet Essentials Ambassadors who volunteer their time to help spread the word about the program in their communities.
The Comcast commitments are projected to impact as many as 50 million Americans over the next 10 years. In 2021 alone, Comcast estimates students throughout the nation will be able to complete more than 25 million hours of remote learning lessons to further address the “homework gap” at the hundreds of Lift Zone locations that have already opened or will open soon.
Comcast Lift Zones are an extension of the company’s Internet Essentials program, the largest and most comprehensive low-cost Internet adoption program for low-income Americans.
The company also continues to offer 60 days of free internet service to new Internet Essentials customers who sign up before June 30.