Comcast and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) have announced the launch of an innovative Digital Navigator program that will utilize trained students to get more Baltimore-area residents – including CCBC students – connected to the Internet at home, while also teaching digital literacy skills and how to use devices. The program is supported by a $150,000 grant from Comcast that will be used to hire and train nearly a dozen CCBC students.
The CCBC Digital Navigators will focus on addressing barriers households face to getting online – namely affordability, access to devices, and digital skills. Digital Navigators are trained to educate residents – including the thousands of CCBC students returning to campus this fall in need of high-speed Internet for schoolwork and job searches – about resources available to overcome these obstacles.
In addition, Comcast is offering exclusive Internet deals and spreading the word about eligibility for the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides qualifying individuals with a $30/month benefit toward their Internet bill. Thanks to ACP, eligible Comcast customers can get home Internet either through Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus at no cost once the Federal credit is applied. Internet Essentials customers can also add a line of unlimited 5G cellular data ($45) through Xfinity Mobile for as little as $24.95/month after the ACP benefit is applied. The ACP benefit could save them up to $360 a year, which means lower expenses and lower student loans to pay for their educations.
“We thank Comcast for their continued investment in our community and their commitment to driving innovative approaches to bridging the digital divide,” said Dr. Sandra L. Kurtinitis, President of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). “A major impact of this partnership will be assuring that CCBC students are connected at home as well as on campus. Internet affordability should not be a barrier to academic and career-long success.”
The Digital Navigator model is a highly effective and research-driven approach that engages trusted community organizations to address the root causes of the digital divide – including access to the Internet, technology, and digital skills – the essential foundations for broadband adoption. A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group surveyed more than 1,500 people nationwide who used Digital Navigator services and revealed the critical role Digital Navigators play in closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities. Key takeaways include:
- More than 65% of survey respondents said they obtained Internet access or a computer or tablet at home; among Hispanic and Black Americans, this increased to 72%.
- More than 85% of all respondents said they used the Internet more frequently.
- Almost half surveyed obtained better healthcare, and 40% received support with basic needs like food, rent, and housing.
- 1 in 3 found a new job or earned a higher income.
“Closing the digital divide in Baltimore County remains a top priority for my administration, and we are committed to ensuring all of our residents have access to the tools they need to be successful and stay connected,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “The Digital Navigator Program will build on our strong partnerships with CCBC and Comcast and help students and community members get connected, learn about new technology, and share digital literacy skills.”
Comcast is deeply committed to advancing digital equity in the communities it serves. The company’s community partnerships in Maryland over the past three years have totaled $28.8 million in cash and in-kind contributions to more than 187 local non-profits. This investment includes the installation of more than 40 Lift Zones in Maryland, which provide free WiFi service to local community centers to expand access to digital skills learning opportunities.
“Comcast is proud to partner with CCBC to empower members of its student body to get more Baltimoreans connected to the Internet,” said Michael Parker, Senior Vice President for Comcast’s Beltway Region. “Deep partnerships are needed to ensure we are reaching and connecting those in need, and that’s why collaborating with CCBC is so critical as we work to accelerate digital access and adoption.”
The CCBC Digital Navigator program – which is part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity – builds on Comcast’s continued partnership with Baltimore County to bridge the digital divide. Earlier this year, Comcast and Baltimore County announced the latest phase of a rural broadband expansion which will bring high-speed Internet to 99% of previously unserved residences in Northern Baltimore County.