Last week the Comcast Mile High Region team had an opportunity to speak with Comcast Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, David L. Cohen, following his announcement that Internet Essentials, Comcast’s low-income Internet adoption program would be extended to community college students in Colorado. Here, Cohen goes into detail about the program’s accomplishments, the latest expansion, and the future of Internet Essentials.
Cindy Parson: What Colorado-specific milestones has the IE program made since its inception?
David Cohen: Colorado has been one of the leading states for Internet Essentials, with nearly 30 percent of eligible families having been connected – 10 percent higher than the national average of 20 percent. To put it into perspective, that’s nearly 24,000 Colorado families, or almost 100,000 individuals. These numbers are proof that we are closing the digital divide in Colorado. I applaud the leadership, educators, nonprofits and organizations who have helped make this program a success.
CP: Why has Comcast decided to expand the IE program to community colleges?
DC: We brainstormed with our partners and talked about next steps, improvements and enhancements Comcast could make to Internet Essentials. One of the many enhancements included expanding the program to other needy populations, like community college students. At Comcast, we believe education and home Internet go hand in hand. And equalizing access to educational resources is one of the most important benefits of a home Internet connection. That’s precisely why we first offered Internet Essentials to low-income families with children from Head Start through 12th grade. However, education doesn’t just end after high school, and that there is a need in the post-secondary arena as well. In fact, we learned that many community college students are more likely to be employed, independent from their parents’ finances, have dependents, and be older.
CP: Colorado is only one of two states to receive this expansion. Can you offer us some insight?
DC: We’re rolling out this program in Colorado and Illinois, two states where there are more than 130,000 students who receive Pell Grants and would, therefore, be eligible to apply for Internet Essentials. Specifically, Colorado and its leadership have a passion for the Internet Essentials program and the numbers show. In addition to the states success, there is a developed community college system with 40,000 eligible students. At Comcast we agree that the state of Colorado is the perfect place to test this pilot program.
CP: When will the IE program become available to eligible students in Colorado?
DC: We want eligible students to know that they can sign up now. In fact we are implementing various programs to promote the new expansion in the next few weeks, including a multi-platform marketing and communications campaign. We’re also working with the community colleges on a grassroots level.
CP: Elementary, middle, high school, post-secondary and senior citizens. What’s next for IE?
DC: First we plan to take the population we have identified and expand upon it. As for the future, we will continue to identify groups who can benefit from the program. But for now our focus will remain in the education sector and with senior citizens.