Only 56% of households earning less than $35,000 a year have broadband service at home, compared to 92% of households earning more than $75,000 a year. What does this mean? It means that, even though a record number of Americans are online daily, the digital divide for low-income households continues to be a challenge.
This divide affects families in many ways but it especially affects thousands of children attempting to compete with their peers when it comes to completing homework and learning at home, preventing many from advancing out of their current economic situation and repeating the generational poverty cycle.
In an effort to address the continually growing digital divide, Comcast announced today that Internet Essentials, its six-year-old high-speed internet adoption program for low-income families, is offering several new program enhancements at no extra charge to customers that include increasing the program’s speed and providing users with up to 40 hours of free out-of-home wifi access per month (about two hours of access every school night).
“We know that having broadband internet at home helps level the playing field for low-income families, and so working side-by-side with more than 9,000 non-profit and education partners, we have been able to connect over 3 million low-income Americans to the power of the Internet in their homes,” said David Cohen, Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. “We’ve also been able to provide more than $300 million of support for digital literacy training that has benefitted over 4.4 million people.”
Comcast also reported these statistics from a survey of current Internet Essentials customers around how the internet is being used in their homes:
- 98% said their children used the Internet service to do homework, and of these, 93% said having the Internet at home has had a positive impact on their children’s grades.
- 85% said they use the service daily.
- 62% also said the program helped them or someone in their household to find a job.
Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the spokesperson for the Internet Essentials program, joining up to help promote closing the digital divide after witnessing it her hometown of East St. Louis. “I think we just assume everyone has access to the Internet, but the truth is so many live without it still. And in digital this world, even basic access is key to keeping up with your peers in school so you can be successful in college and career.”
The top five states working to close the digital divide for residents through this program are California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas.
While programs like this and discounts are a good start to narrowing the divide, districts and cities need to use a variety of strategies to extend access to quality learning. We’ve also seen:
- Urban districts boosting school wifi signals to extend to nearby apartment units
- School providing wifi on buses for students with long rides
- Extended career education for rural students
For more, see:
- Bridging the Digital Divide: Strategies to Ensure Student Access to Technology at Home
- 10 Strategies Promoting Digital Access and Equity
- Shrinking the Digital Divide
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