Helping low-income families get online at home creates opportunities and builds a stronger workforce.
Access to the internet — and the tools to harness it — can be a great equalizer in education, opening up a world of opportunities for children across economic and cultural backgrounds.
The City of Seattle Technology Access and Adoption study reports that more Seattle residents are connected to the internet than ever before. While this is good news for the 95% of Seattle households that report home internet access (up from 85% in 2014), access to internet and technology resources among low-income residents remains low. Further, disconnected households are disproportionately impoverished and families of color — placing them squarely on the wrong side of the digital divide that negatively affects education and workforce readiness.
“We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue,” Mayor Jenny Durkan says in the report. “As we work to create more opportunities for youth … we must also strive to make sure that all of our communities have access to high-speed internet and the skills they need to compete in our constantly connected world.”
The research shows that education and income both correlate directly with internet access. One out of five residents without any college education have no home internet. Further, internet access rates are lowest for households with income below $25,000 annually, and households with income below $50,000 annually are significantly more likely to have no fixed broadband subscription.
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“Bridging this gap in internet access is critical to the future of our city’s workforce and economic development, as well as providing the best possible educational opportunities to our youth,” says Amy Lynch, regional senior vice president of Comcast in Washington state.
Comcast offers a broadband access program for low-income families called internet Essentials.
Internet Essentials is a comprehensive, holistic and research-based program designed to address each of the barriers to internet adoption head on. Internet Essentials provides low-cost internet access, the option to purchase a heavily discounted computer, and access to a full suite of print, online and in-person digital literacy resources and training. Since 2011, the program has connected more than six million low-income Americans to the internet at home, most of them for the first time in their lives. More than 260,000 residents across Washington state have participated in the program, including 100,000 users in King County and 30,000 in Seattle.
“Internet Essentials was initially designed for families with school-aged children and we have expanded to meet more needs, including residents of public housing and recipients of federal housing assistance,” Lynch says. This program also connects nearly 60,000 low-income veterans in Seattle to online resources at home to better navigate the complexities of transitioning from military to civilian life.
According to the report, Mayor Durkin states the entire community — private and public sectors — must join together to ensure digital inclusion of all Seattle households. “Being the city that invents the future mean leaving nobody behind,” she says, “and helping those most impacted by digital inequity catch up and keep up.”
Comcast’s internet Essentials is a prime example of how a private corporation is working to address a communitywide initiative: closing the digital divide. To learn more or to apply for the service, visit www.internetessentials.com or call 855-846-8376.