Internet Essentials, Comcast’s offering for low-income families and individuals to connect to the internet, has proven critical for thousands of school-age kids and job-seekers in the across Oregon/SW Washington during the Covid-19 crisis.
As schools across the region face the reality of what started out as an extended Spring Break, and then suddenly became the end classroom learning, Internet Essentials has proved to be an educational lifeline. And for low-income job seekers, internet connectivity is critical with widespread work from home policies in place.
To date, the Salem-Keizer School District, Portland Community College (PCC), Portland Public Schools (PPS), and Worksystems Inc. have each entered into partnerships with Comcast to purchase Internet Essentials. These six-month sponsored service agreements enable distance-learning and empower vulnerable members of our community to connect to work, school and their families. And there are more partnerships to come: we’re dedicated to helping as many school districts and community organizations as we can.
Rebecca Brown, Director of Community Impact, says it’s been gratifying to enable these new partnerships. “Internet Essentials is truly living up to its name, enabling essential digital connections to students, families and individuals in need.”
“As our classes have moved online for the term, we know how critical it is right now to get students connected,” said Ann Prater, PCC Foundation Executive Director, “PCC has already given out 400 laptops, with more being ordered. We are in the process of getting 300 students connected to Comcast’s Internet Essentials.”
The Fund for Portland Public Schools is also working with Comcast to connect 2,000 students to the internet for the next six months. “Thanks to an early infusion of private donations, we were excited to commit free internet connectivity to many of our students and families in need,” said Jonathan Garcia, President of The Fund for PPS. “We are thankful for our business and philanthropic community who continue to step up in big ways for our families during a difficult time.”
Worksystems, Inc is a non-profit organization that helps people get the skills, training and education they need to go to work. In partnership with Comcast, Worksystems is distributing 300 Comcast-subsidized laptop computers and providing six months of pre-paid internet access to the low-income unemployed. The computers are getting into the hands of those who need them the most, through organizations like Central City Concern, Home Forward and Portland Youthbuilders, “As the public workforce system transitions to virtual service provision, it is critical that low-income job seekers have the equipment and technology necessary to access services remotely,” said Worksystems’ Executive Director Andrew McGough. “Keeping vulnerable populations connected is essential to our recovery efforts.”
Since its inception in 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 52,000 low-income households in the Oregon/SW Washington region. The program charges $9.95/month, but in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Comcast is offering two months free for customers who sign up before May 13. People who qualify for a broad range of federal assistance programs including Pell Grants, Medicaid, HUD-assisted housing, SNAP, and SSI, among others, are eligible to apply for Internet Essentials.