Comcast said it has picked Colorado and Illinois as the first two states where it will test out a version of its Internet Essential program for low-income community college students.
The two-state trial comes on the heels of Comcast’s recent expansion of a similar Internet Essentials pilot tailored for senior citizens.
To qualify for the program, low-income community college students in Colorado and Illinois must be recipients of Federal Pell Grants. Comcast, citing recent data on community colleges from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), said nearly 40% of students attending two-year community colleges receive Federal Pell Grants. In Colorado, an estimated 40,000 community college students attending schools within Comcast’s service area receive Pell Grants and would be eligible to apply for Internet Essentials. There are more than 90,000 who are Federal Pell Grant recipients in Illinois, Comcast said.
Internet Essentials, a voluntary commitment linked to Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal and originally designed for low-income families, provides high-speed Internet service to those who qualify for $9.95 per month, plus computer equipment (less than $150) and free Internet training. Comcast recently doubled Internet Essentials’ download speeds to up to 10 Mbps, and said it would offer free WiFi routers that enable users to connect devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones to their home service. As of June 2015, Comcast said it had connected more than 500,000 households and 2 million Americans to Internet Essentials.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, community colleges enroll as many as 40% all college students each year, and that community colleges serve a high percentage of non-traditional students, including those who are low-income, are financially independent, have dependents, are first generation, and are older.
“For millions of Americans, community college is one of the most accessible paths to a post-secondary education and a brighter future,” David Cohen, Comcast’s senior executive VP and chief diversity officer, said in a statement. “By offering an affordable Internet connection and computer, Internet Essentials will enable low-income community college students to access educational resources not just at school but also at home."
At the Community College of Denver, Comcast’s Cohen announced the community college pilots alongside Colorado Lieutenant Governor and executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education Joe Garcia; and President of the Colorado Community College System Nancy McCallin, Ph.D.