Committed to helping people connect to the Internet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Comcast — an American telecommunications conglomerate headquartered in Philadelphia — announced that it will continue to provide free Internet service, via the PHLConnectED Program, for the first 60 days for new Internet Essential customers. Additionally, the company announced it will provide free access to more than 1.5 million public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots through June 30, 2021. The announcement marks the third time Comcast has extended these commitments this year.
The PHLConnectED Program
The program, which has approximately 12,000 enrollees, launched in August 2020 as schools strategized and made decisions to continue with remote-instruction during the new 2020-2021 school year. At no cost, the program has provided and connected K-12 student households with wired broadband internet service through Comcast’s Internet Essential program. In addition to Comcast and the School District of Philadelphia, several Philly charter and Independence Mission schools have participated.
“We know that we put a large dent in those families in terms of bringing them across the digital divide. But there’s still a lot of outreach that we have to do for families to complete the process to get them on board.”Otis Hackney, the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer
According to district data, roughly 5% of Philly students lack efficient internet access. A 2019 survey also estimated that 50% of students, grades 3 through 12, lacked access to the internet through a home computer. This result gave rise to school district officials launching an effort to distribute 50,000 Chromebooks to students without sufficient learning devices.
Families of students who participate in public benefit programs and meet certain income qualifications are now eligible. As additional efforts continue to be announced as part of a public awareness campaign, the city is encouraging more students and families to sign up for the program, with the goal to grow by several more thousand households in the coming months.
Information provided by Philly Voice.