One hundred elementary school students from Lew Wallace Elementary, Longfellow Elementary, and Eugene Field Elementary and five “Teeniors” received the surprise of a lifetime yesterday when they were presented with free laptops and six months of Internet Essentials service. This surprise was carried out in partnership with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque City Council President Klarissa Peña to announce the largest ever expansion of Internet Essentials in New Mexico. The program expansion doubles the number of eligible low-income households across the state, bringing the total eligible homes to 126,000.
Comcast introduced new eligibility guidelines to increase the number of New Mexicans able to access broadband. This expansion makes the program available to all families who qualify for government public assistance programs, including low-income people with disabilities and seniors. Previously, only families that resided in public housing, qualified for the national school lunch program, and low-income veterans were eligible to participate.
In addition to captivating the students with new technology and free Internet Essentials service, Comcast 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 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,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal.
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 more than 180,000 low-income New Mexicans, to the Internet at home, most 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 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. 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. For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.