Nicole Jacobson Guest column
There’s a better-thanaverage chance that you are reading this column on some sort of digital device, powered by WiFi. But that’s a reality that isn’t universal. Being a part of the digital community is no longer a choice — it’s a necessity to thrive and survive in today’s world. But for too many people, reliable wireless access isn’t always a given.
Some of those who are most acutely affected by the digital divide are children. The discrepancy was magnified during the pandemic when millions of schools were closed, and students and teachers were forced into online learning situations.
As recently as April 2021 it was estimated that more than 2 million U.S. children didn’t have easy access to either reliable computer hardware or WiFi.
Comcast is out to change that for millions of families across the country, including some here in Independence.
Last year, Comcast announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to help further address digital equity and give even more low-income Americans the tools and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
Among the most visible of our efforts are our Lift Zones that we started during the pandemic. We have two in Independence, at each Boys & Girls Clubs location, 315 S. Leslie St. and 16995 E. Dover Lane. The Lift Zones were developed in partnership with the clubs to bring free WiFi to members.
For Boys & Girls club members, the Lift Zone provides a place to use the internet for gaming, reading, or, for many students, an opportunity to finish homework. Just since the Lift Zones opened in the fall, 150 to 200 students use them every week.
But Lift Zones are just one way that Comcast is working to keep its promise to bring connectivity to all.
For 11 years, Comcast has offered Internet Essentials, a program that has helped connect more than 10 million low-income Americans to the Internet at home, including more than 20,000 people throughout the Lee’s Summit and Kansas City areas. Internet Essentials is Comcast’s basic $9.95/ month plan. This year, we are expanding that program.
Internet Essentials Plus is a new tier of service available in all Comcast service areas to any customer who qualifies. It offers twice the download speed – up to 100 Mbps – of the traditional Internet Essentials service, which has a 50 Mbps download speed. Internet Essentials Plus is available for $29.95/ month to new customers who qualify.
Existing Internet Essentials customers can upgrade at any time. Customers who subscribe to Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus and enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program, designed to help low-income households connect and stay connected to the Internet, can effectively get broadband for free after the $30/month government discount is applied. Customers who qualify can apply ACP credits to any tier of Xfinity Internet, including Internet Essentials.
As the world becomes more digital, it is crucial that everyone has the resources and opportunities to excel in today’s environment. Comcast is proud to be a leader in providing affordable resources to everyone to connect them with the world. For more information on Internet Essentials visit www.internetessentials.com. To learn more about ACP, visit www.xfinity.com/ acp.
Nicole Jacobson is the senior director of technical operations with Comcast.