PLYMOUTH — The cable TV, data and phone service provider Comcast Corp. Monday was to announce a partnership with the Royal Oak Schools and the Royal Oak Foundation for Public Education that it has implemented the first phase of a two-year commitment to helping close the digital divide with low-income families.
The Internet Essentials Educational Partnership between the three parties, valued at approximately $40,000, marks the first Michigan-based partnership with a school district, a nonprofit foundation and Comcast.
The first phase of implementation will be marked with the official delivery of computer netbooks and high-speed Internet self-installation kits to 50 eligible families in the Royal Oak Schools. While picking up the computer equipment at the district’s Board of Education Office, families will be greeted by Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison, Royal Oak School Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin and volunteer Foundation Board Member Rita Walker, who was one of several volunteer board members of the Education Foundation assisting at the event.
Lewis-Lakin noted that “no individual, no foundation, no corporation working alone can close the digital divide. When schools, foundations and corporations come together with common purpose and commitment, together we make a positive difference for children.”
Added Tim Collins, regional senior vice president for Comcast: “Internet Essentials is not just about people getting access to the Internet at home; it’s also about what having the Internet at home can do to help families get ahead. With it, a father can apply for a job, a mother can research health care services, a teenager can study for the SATs or a youngster can learn to read or do math.”
Through Internet Essentials from Comcast, Royal Oak Schools and the Royal Oak Foundation for Public Education are funding two years of Internet Essentials Internet service ($9.95 monthly fee) as well as a netbook computer (valued at $149.99 plus tax) for Internet in the homes of up to 100 eligible families whose children attend their schools. In addition to Internet service (download speeds of up to 3 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 768 Kbps), each family receives at no additional charge a modem, Constant Guard Protection Suite ($360 value) and top-rated Norton Security Suite and Identity Guard.
Additional outreach to enroll up to fifty more families in the program is being planned by the school district. In order to qualify for participation in the Internet Essentials program, families must have children enrolled in the Royal Oak Schools who participate in the National School Lunch Program, either for the free- or reduced-lunch program.
On Feb. 28, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report reaffirming that the digital divide still persists. The survey, of nearly 2,500 middle and high school teachers, found that 79 percent of students are asked by teachers to access and download assignments from an online site.
These teachers see disparities in access to digital tools having at least some impact on their students. More than half (54 percent) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18 percent) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.
As a result, eighty-four percent of the teachers were also concerned about the increased disparities between low- and high-income students and school districts.
Since its launch 17 months ago, Internet Essentials has become the largest and most comprehensive initiative focused on closing the digital divide in America, connecting more than 150,000 families.
Comcast announced the following enhancements to Internet Essentials that are rolling this year:
* Expanding eligibility to parochial school and homeschool students, including cyber/online schools, bringing the estimated total number of eligible families we serve to 2.6 million, nationwide;
* Launching an online application request form later this spring so families can more easily and conveniently order an application online anytime at their local library, community center or at a friend’s house; and
* Introducing Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards so Comcast’s non-profit partners and others can pre-purchase up to a year of Internet Essentials service for eligible families.
Each of these enhancements was a result of the company’s work in schools and communities. To learn more about Internet Essentials, visit www.internetessentials.com (for English) or www.internetbasico.com (for Spanish).