Comcast stepped up to the plate in its hometown of Philadelphia by contributing $7 million over two years to help provide free internet access to low-income families.
Comcast was among the largest contributors to the PHLConnectED campaign that will connect up to 35,000 K-12 student households with internet service. The program will offer eligible student households up to two years of high-speed internet via Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, or a high-speed mobile hotspot for families who "are housing-insecure," according to a press release from the city of Philadelphia.
According to a story by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city is purchasing wireless hot spots from T-Mobile that can be accessed at no charge. Participants won't pay any out-of-pocket expenses or installation fees for the home-based internet access.
In July, the School District of Philadelphia announced its all-remote reopening plan for the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted the Philadelphia School District to hand out over 128,000 devices to students without devices at home. In addition to public schools, families from charter schools, Catholic schools and private schools are eligible to take part in the PHLConnectED program.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the program will cost $17 million and will be paid for by local CARES Act funding and philanthropic donations. The city will use $2 million in Cares Act funding, along with private donations from the William Penn Foundation, the Neubauer Family Foundation, the Philadelphia School Partnership, and others. To date, $11 million has been raised and Comcast is the largest donor.
The city estimated it would spend $7.2 million over the next two years on wired internet access, $5.1 million Wi-Fi access points, and $1.7 on a digital navigator program, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"PHLConnectED is the first stage of the City’s larger digital equity initiative to support digital literacy and access for all Philadelphia residents," the city said in its press release. "Our immediate goal: Get our students connected so that they can continue to learn while staying safe during the pandemic.
"And by focusing on K-12 student households, we can help lessen the digital divide in Philadelphia; getting these student households connected will also give internet access to any other individuals living at these locations."