Houston — In a humble southwest Houston apartment, a mother of two was focused on her morning routine — settling down her school-aged children so that she could clear the breakfast table. These days, Saturday morning cartoons worked like magic, and so did her cell phone — but only when it was in the right spot for a strong signal. The connection was hit or miss, but there was no other option.
Unfortunately, that’s the reality for millions of low-income Texas families who don’t have home internet connections — not because they don’t want them, because they can’t afford them.
Thankfully, that Southwest Houston family got a knock at their door that would change their reality forever. In the doorway stood a Comcast employee with a personal delivery — a small brown box holding a broadband modem that would provide tokens of infinite possibility. To them, it was like a treasure chest: In minutes, the family was connected to reliable and fast broadband service.
Connections like these are happening every single day through Comcast’s Internet Essentials — a program launched in 2011 to bring low-cost, high-speed broadband internet, along with generously discounted laptops, to low-income families across the country. In the program’s 10 years, it has connected more than 10 million low-income Americans to help bridge the digital divide.
But there’s still a measurable gap. According to Pew Research Center, 24% of adults with annual household incomes below $30,000 don’t own a smartphone, 43% don’t have home broadband service, and 41% don’t own a desktop or laptop computer. During the onset of the pandemic, when many aspects of life, work and school turned sharply to online only, digital inequities in the U.S. were exposed. While some companies raced to provide temporary fixes like hotspots, Comcast focused on a permanent solution through its flagship Internet Essentials program — installing reliable, home-based, fixed broadband into homes.
Yet, private companies couldn’t do it alone. Recently, Comcast embarked on a new public-private partnership with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and several Region 4 school districts, to give low-income students broadband service for free.
Combating digital inequity doesn’t stop there. Low-income households must catch up with the fast-paced digital world around them. Access to internet must be coupled with teaching digital literacy and skills to students and their families; Comcast has invested more than $700 million to raise awareness about that problem over the last decade. Additionally, as many students are just now discovering public-private partnership offerings, more than 50 Comcast “Lift Zones” in the Houston area are now providing safe spaces where students and families can connect to the internet and learn. The Lift Zones create an unbroken chain of connectivity from school, to after school, and on to the home.
In the case of that southwest Houston family, the green lights on their new treasure box signal a newfound opportunity to watch, learn and grow — just like the students who live a block away, in upper-middle-class homes. Now, they can all have an equal chance at the future.
If you are interested in learning more about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, please visit internetessentials.com. Parents can check their students’ eligibility at TEAConnectTexas.com.