Expanding Internet Access Through Innovation in the Private Sector
The promise of broadband is being realized across the country, in urban and rural communities, including all demographics, amongst the middle class and the poor. While access to, and adoption of, broadband have not necessarily spread evenly, they do in fact continue to spread. While the news has been full of reasons to be concerned whether such success will continue, one effort shines brightly.
Comcast announced last week (http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/internet-essentials-year-four-progress-report) its Internet Essentials program has now brought the benefit of broadband to 1.8 million people across 450,000 low-income families. Comcast began Internet Essentials (http://www.internetessentials.com/) to get more students and families online by offering broadband and a home computer at drastically reduced prices for those who could least afford broadband. In addition, they have invested “more than $225 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy and readiness training and education, reaching more than 3.1 million people through our national and local non-profit community partners.”
The program is proving successful. Eighty-five percent of Internet Essentials’ customers indicate that they use the Internet every day, most (a huge 98 percent) often for homework — the most popular use. But importantly, these low-income families have also been using the online connection to try to better their situation. Fifty-four percent of the customers report that they have been using the broadband service to search and apply for employment with 65 percent indicating that access to the Internet has helped them in that effort
While there is still some gap in broadband adoption (most commonly because some people have indicated in various surveys that they would not adopt broadband at home regardless of price) these sorts of private efforts are leading the way in reaching those wanting broadband access.
ALEC continues to support widespread efforts to promote broadband adoption, use, and digital literacy as they are critical to improving the nation’s long-term competitiveness in a global market, and to achieving certain socioeconomic improvements in the quality of American life. Expanding adoption, use and digital literacy skills will allow a greater number of Americans to fully take advantage of the benefits of broadband based applications such as tele-health, energy management and education opportunities online. (http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/resolution-calling-on-the-federal-government-to-maximize-its-stimulus-support-for-broadband-internet-adoption-and-use-programs/)
So, at no expense to taxpayers the Internet Essentials program has improved the education, employment situation and opportunities for nearly two million citizens. These sorts of efforts should be given the acclaim that they deserve.