Low-Income Broadband Initiative Sees Success in New Mexico

With roughly 5,600 customers in two New Mexico counties, Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive and most successful low-income broadband adoption initiative, officials say.

by The Deming Headlight / October 23, 2019
Most of the bond debt small governments incur is for telecommunications projects, including expanding broadband access to rural Americans. Shutterstock

(TNS) — With a customer base of 5,600 homes in Deming and Luna County, Internet Essentials announces its largest expansion ever in New Mexico.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque City Council President Klarissa Peña joined Comcast at Lew Wallace Elementary School to announce the program, which is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, and most successful low-income broadband adoption initiative. And now the service has doubled the number of eligible low-income households eligible across the state, including households with people with disabilities and seniors.

At the event, Comcast surprised about 100 students with free laptops and six months of Internet Essentials service, and announced $50,000 in grants to support digital inclusion opportunities for local nonprofits Teeniors, Adelante Development Center, and the West Central Community Development Group.

“The internet is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity. If we’re going to close the internet gap, we need to tackle the barriers of access and affordability so everyone has the opportunities that the internet makes possible like research for homework, looking for jobs and signing up for services,” said Mayor Keller. “Comcast’s continual expansion of its Internet Essentials program shows a commitment to making Internet access a reality for more people in Albuquerque.”

The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history. The Company estimates a total of nearly seven million households now have access to low-cost Internet service, which doubles the total number of previously eligible households.

“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal. “The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource. Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”

Comcast’s grant to Teeniors will support digital literacy workshops for low-income seniors in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces. The grant to Adelante will support the newly announced DiverseIT Oasis Center where low-income individuals and people with disabilities can receive cost-effective computer repair and support services, as well as technology and computer training to help close the digital divide.

In 2018, Comcast supported Teeniors and Adelante with grant funding that allowed the organizations to provide digital literacy training to more than 625 low-income seniors. Comcast will also invest in a new digital literacy training lab at the West Central Community Development Group center, so more residents in the area can get online.

Since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected 5,600 low-income individuals in Deming to the internet at home, and more than eight million low-income individuals nationally. Most of these individuals have been connected to the internet for the first time in their lives.

The announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income veterans. To apply for the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different government assistance programs. A full list can be found at https://www.internetessentials.com.

Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet; the lack of a computer; and cost of Internet service.

As a result, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax.

The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.

©2019 The Deming Headlight (Deming, N.M.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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