At Comcast, one of our values is inclusion, and digital inclusion is part of that. The digital divide is complex and something our company has been focused on for nearly a decade. Since 2011, our Internet Essentials program has connected more than 8 million people from households in low-income neighborhoods, many for the very first time. During that period, the program has grown from focusing on bridging the “homework gap” for school-age children to being deeply invested in providing digital equity.
We understand the importance of connectivity for individuals and families, especially now that many are working, learning and educating from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School districts already are sharing plans for the upcoming school year and, to help provide additional support, we recently extended our 60-day offer of free internet service to all eligible, new Internet Essentials customers through the end of the year.
But, in order to further our efforts to close the digital divide, we need to find collaborative solutions with cities and school systems, like our recent partnership with Arlington Public Schools (APS) in Virginia. The Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials.
We recently spoke with Raj Adusumilli, Assistant Superintendent of Information Services at APS, to get his perspective on the digital divide, in general, and the Internet Essentials program, in particular:
How has the internet changed the way we are teaching and learning in the school systems?
The internet has become a large part of the education system and will continue to grow in the future. From watching educational videos to researching a topic for a paper to creating a presentation, students are turning to online resources to advance themselves, and we need to make sure they all have access to these resources now and moving forward.
How does the Internet Essentials program fit into APS’ mission?
Throughout the Arlington Public Schools system, we aim to be an inclusive community that empowers all students to foster their dreams, explore their possibilities and create their futures. That goal cannot be obtained when all of our students and families do not have access to the internet at home. The Internet Essentials program from Comcast gives thousands of children in our community the opportunity to access the digital world, no matter their status.
How else do you think students and families will use their internet access?
Now more than ever, the ability to connect with people digitally is pivotal. Not only does it make online learning easier when you can see and interact with your teachers and peers, but it plays a big role in our students’ health and happiness. We know many of them haven’t been able to see friends and family members face-to-face due to social distancing. But, having access to the internet will bring a new positive experience to our students’ daily lives.
For more information about the Internet Essentials program, visit internetessentials.com/.