Business, News, Regional Transformation, Technology

Low cost “Internet Essentials” program aims to help bridge the digital divide in Metro Detroit

Internet Essentials launch photo provided

It might seem trivial at first, but if there is one thing Metro Detroit needs is more access to the internet. Why? You can look for a job. You can look for daycare. A child can chat with a friend over homework. Detroiters can be connected.

The internet provides not only entertainment but opportunity. Detroit families need the simple ability to reach out to world. Not only for things like jobs, information and games, but to tell their story. A place like Detroit needs more of its collective voice heard.

Internet Essentials Launch Event - Photo providedComcast, a global behemoth in terms of media, will create three community partnerships in metropolitan Detroit to help 250 more families get connected online at home through its Internet Essentials program.

Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest, most comprehensive broadband adoption initiative, is making it easy for families to get the access they need by making it available to families whose children are eligible for free or reduced lunch at their schools. $55,000 is being made available locally.

One of the partners is the WAY Academy, a Detroit-based charter high school, which is already at the forefront of digital technology.

But it’s not just in the city of Detroit. The needs of children and families don’t respect arbitrary boundaries.

Comcast is also partnering with the Westwood Cyber High School, part of Westwood Community Schools, which provides distance learning services for students in Wayne County. The Royal Oak school district and the Royal Oak Foundation for Public Education are also throwing their hats in.

The three partners expect 150 families to get involved with Internet Essentials this year.

“Internet Essentials is not just about getting people access to the internet at home,” said Tim Collins, regional senior vice president for Comcast. “It’s also about what having the internet at home can do to help families get ahead.”

Last month the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report reaffirming the cyber gap still plagues so much of our school system nationwide. The survey of nearly 2,500 American middle and high school teachers found that 79 percent of students are asked by teachers to access and download assignments from an online site.

There is no doubt in many of these teachers’ minds that digital disparities have a negative impact on their students. The Pew report also says only 18% of the teachers say all or almost all their students have access to the digital resources they need to succeed at their homes. There’s not just a gap here, but across America.

These are the spaces the Internet Essentials program is seeking to fill. Since its maiden voyage 16 months ago, it has become the largest and most comprehensive initiative focused on closing the digital divide in America, connecting more than 150,000 families.

Detroit, like many of her sister cities across the country, is simply trying to diagnose and address the problems that leave so many of its children behind. Thanks to Comcast, the WAY Academy, Westwood Cyber High School and the Royal Oak School District for pushing one more bookend closer to a solution in the ever growing library that is Detroit’s need for help.

To learn more about Internet Essentials, visit www.internetessentials.com (for English) or www.internetbasico.com (for Spanish).

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