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Internet Essentials hit its 10-year anniversary. Graphic: Comcast.
Internet Essentials hit its 10-year anniversary. Graphic: Comcast.

Comcast to invest $1 billion over next 10 years to further support its Internet Essentials program

The announcement came on the 10-year anniversary of the launch of Internet Essentials, which is geared to bridging the digital divide across the country.

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Ten years ago, Comcast launched its Internet Essentials program as a pilot at the Wilmington Urban League in an initial step in the long fight to overcome the digital divide between communities in the U.S.

Since, Comcast estimates it has helped connect 10 million people across the country to broadband internet service.

In no year was the service more needed than 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept Philadelphia, the U.S., and globe.

It not only forced businesses to shift to navigating in a virtual workplace (a lot, which didn’t make it), but schools also had to transfer entire in-person infrastructures to a virtual format in a short timeframe.

The latter shift spawned Comcast’s partnership with the School District of Philadelphia through PHLConnectED. The collaboration was an effort to hook up to 35,000 families without internet in the city using Internet Essentials. 

In the end, 9,000 were connected through the massive public-private partnership.

In a decade, up to 520,000 Philadelphians benefited from the Internet Essentials program, and up to 840,000 in the Greater Philadelphia area.

With the new $1 billion investment over 10 years, Comcast is committing to further expand its Lift Zone initiative, which provides WI-FI connected hotspots at over 1,000 community centers across the country. 

In Philadelphia, there are 40, and more than 100 in the surrounding region. Further expansion will push Comcast towards its goal of bridging the “homework gap” between students with and without reliable internet access. 

Funding will also go towards new computer and laptop donations made by the company, grants for nonprofits to create opportunities in their communities, and to hit the goal of connecting 50 million individuals to the internet in another decade.

“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” said Dave Watson, Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Cable. “Today, we are rededicating ourselves to this mission to ensure that the next generation of students in America has the tools, resources, and abilities they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.”

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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