As a major tech hub, it’s no surprise Seattle is among the nation’s most digitally literate cities. In fact, more Seattle residents are connected to the internet than ever before. While this is good news for the 95% of Seattle households that report internet access where they live, access to internet and technology resources among low-income residents remains low.

The Biden Administration’s new Affordable Connectivity Program and discounted broadband services like Internet Essentials are helping with this, but the financial challenge is just one hurdle. While federal subsidies are filling some gaps, disparities persist in what’s known as the “digital divide.” Programs that address the economic costs of internet-ready computers, high-speed internet and digital literacy for both children and adults can help bridge this discrepancy.

Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington is one local organization that is providing digital literacy resources to those in need across King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit and Kitsap counties. “Having access to the internet isn’t a luxury, and the consequences of not having it can hold people back from their professional and educational goals,” says Matt Peel, digital equity manager for Evergreen Goodwill.

Peel and Evergreen Goodwill work to address disparities in digital access through programming that provides equipment and helps students build digital skills and confidence. Comcast has provided free high-speed internet through its Lift Zones initiative and invested more than $246,000 over the past two years to strengthen Evergreen Goodwill’s job training and education programs.

Evergreen Goodwill’s mission is to break down significant barriers to education and employment people in the community face. The organization fulfills this mission in a variety of ways, including offering basic instruction on how to use computers and smartphones, cloud computing and applications like Microsoft Word and Excel and Google Docs and Sheets. These courses and programs are offered at Evergreen Goodwill’s five Job Training and Education Centers. To level the digital playing field specifically for folks without digital devices, the organization has so far answered more than 1500 calls on a hotline offering digital assistance and donated over 500 laptops in its service area.

Peel has used Comcast-donated Chromebooks in his classroom. He’s also encouraged by efforts from the federal government to expand digital equity through the Affordable Connectivity Program. “I do see movement, good movement toward digital equity nationally, and it’s very good to see that … I think digital equity is just a foundational need that everyone needs to have access to,” he says. “It’s just something that we need in our life today.”


Elizabeth Contreras received one of the donated machines, a Chromebook she now uses for her Evergreen Goodwill classwork, with an instructor she’s enjoyed learning from. Contreras says her teacher was especially helpful at explaining digital concepts, taking time to elaborate when students had difficulty with the material. “My teacher has been very helpful and patient explaining how to use the computer and I use my laptop to complete my classwork,” she says.

While students use the laptops for coursework, they also use them for basic necessities like doctor’s appointments, says Ryan Hodges, a communications specialist with Evergreen Goodwill’s department of marketing and communications. One student, he says, had few transportation options for getting medical treatment aside from a lengthy trip on public transit. A gifted laptop allowed her to seek care from home. “Being able to go and do those virtual doctor’s appointments was a game-changer for her,” he says.

And while virtual health care appointments have been normalized since the pandemic, that doesn’t mean everyone has easy access to them — especially if you don’t have a device to begin with. “I think lots of folks don’t realize that there are thousands of people across the state who don’t have that same access,” says Hodges. Digital access is also a useful tool when it comes to applying for social services, getting a job, or finding stable housing.

All of these things are components of digital equity, and each story of attaining one step forward in making sure that people have the digital tools they need to learn, thrive and support themselves. “Our local economy and communities are only as strong as the access people have to critical technology and the internet,” Hodges said. “So long as there are individuals in the community who do not have equal access, our work here at Evergreen Goodwill will persist.”

Comcast is committed to Washington, where our thousands of employees serve more than 1.7 million residential and business customers throughout the state. Comcast is Washington’s leading provider of media and technology that connects people to resources and moments that matter.