The City of Seattle Technology Access and Adoption study showed that more Seattle residents are connected to the internet than ever before. While this is good news for the 95 percent of Seattle households that report internet access where they live, access to internet and technology resources among low-income residents remains low. Further, disconnected households are disproportionately impoverished and families of color – two groups that would benefit most from internet connection at home.
This gap in access is what we call the “digital divide,” and bridging this gap is critical to workforce and economic development, as well as providing the best possible educational opportunities to our local youth – all of which are vital to the future of our city.
Research examining the digital divide among these households shows some consistent causes. The number one barrier to internet adoption is a complex mix of digital literacy skills and a lack of perceived need or interest in having the internet at home. The second barrier is the lack of an internet capable computer, and third is the cost of a monthly internet subscription.
This is a troubling problem that Comcast is uniquely positioned to address as a leading home broadband provider in Seattle. That is why we are working with the city to help low-income residents get connected.
Across our footprint, including right here in Seattle, we offer Internet Essentials 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.
“The study shows us that lower-income individuals and families need more information about affordable options for internet connectivity and we are committed to helping them find and apply for those resources,” said Jim Loter, Director of Digital Engagement for the City of Seattle. “Affordable internet service programs have a tremendous impact for our residents and they are critical for helping connect people and families to technology they need to succeed in today’s digital world. By assisting people in accessing affordable options, we can bridge the digital divide in Seattle and ensure everyone has a chance at the same education, career opportunities, and overall quality of life.”
Since 2011, we have connected more than six million low-income Americans to the internet at home – most of them for the first time in their lives – including more than 260,000 across Washington and 100,000 in King County. We’ve been growing this program here in the City, and have already served more than 30,000 residents.
However, there is more work to do. Internet Essentials was initially designed for families with school-aged children and we have expanded to meet more needs. It now serves residents of public housing and recipients of federal housing assistance.
In addition, we recently expanded eligibility for Internet Essentials to all low-income veterans who live in our service area, including here in Seattle. This expansion is enabling as many as one million veterans nationally – and nearly 60,000 veterans in Washington – to connect to online resources at home to better navigate the complexities of transitioning from military to civilian life.
It is also important to note that great collaboration between cities and organizations is key to driving adoption of these services. We are working with the city now more than ever before to ensure people get the information they need about our internet services that support folks with economic challenges.
Internet Essentials is a key part of our partnerships between Comcast and thousands of cities, school districts, libraries, elected officials and nonprofit community partners nationwide. Locally, we have, and continue to work with great Seattle organizations like King County Housing Authority, Renton Housing Authority, Highline Schools Foundation, Ada Developers Academy, Literary Source, Chief Seattle Club, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle Goodwill, Solid Ground, Technology Access Foundation, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.
By collaborating with these civic and community groups, we can enhance their growing technology access programs with Internet Essentials programming, and help them in their efforts ensure everyone in the community has access to the technology resources they need. And, by improving digital adoption rates and connecting more families and individuals to the internet, we can make progress educational achievements and workforce preparedness, in order to give more people a chance to succeed in today’s digital economy.
To learn more about Internet Essentials from Comcast or to apply for the service, visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376.