With every passing year, access to the internet becomes more necessary for daily life. Whether it is for work or personal use, a lack of reliable internet access places a person or family at a distinct social, and potential economic, disadvantage.
Comcast Cable (Xfinity) has been taking action to mitigate this problem with its “Internet Essentials” program.
This Comcast-funded initiative offers low-cost internet access for a little under $10, plus monthly tax; internet ready computers for about $150, in addition to monthly tax; and free digital literacy training. Michelle Gilbert- VP Public Relations, Comcast Cable Heartland Region says “Internet Essentials is our answer to helping bridge the digital divide, which is arguably a high priority for our country. The more families we can help get access to the Internet at home, the more possibilities we open up for them.”
The program was originally created to meet the needs of families with school-aged children with at least one child eligible for the National School Lunch Program, a federally subsidized program that provides free and reduced-price meals to students from families living at or below 130 percent of the poverty level. For example, 130 percent of the federal poverty level translates to a $2,633 monthly income for a family of four. In Grand Rapids, nearly 16,000 Grand Rapids Public Schools students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in the 2015-16 school year, the most recent data available, according to state statistics.
This past July, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Comcast announced that public housing and HUD-assisted residents living in Comcast’s service area would be eligible to apply for the Internet Essentials program.
As part of the Internet Essentials program, Comcast in West Michigan partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth to host five free digital literacy classes for local residents that aim to bridge the digital divide.
This first digital literacy class will teach students the importance of social media privacy settings, how to react if approached by a stranger online, and how to recognize and report cyber bullying.
Gilbert adds that, “social media is a big part of our kids’ lives, so it’s important to teach them how to use it safely and responsibly”
It will be held this Thursday, April 6 at 1:30pm at the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, located at 235 Straight Ave NW. For more information about the class, contact the Boys & Girls Club at 616-233-9370 ext. 110.
The Internet Essentials program was launched in 2011, and since then Comcast has connected more than 38,000 homes in Michigan, including 5,200 in Kent County, to the web. Internet Essentials doesn’t require a credit check, installation fee or contract. The service provides speeds of up to 10 megabits per second, and in-home Wi-Fi is included.
Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.