Comcast Wires Inner-City D.C. School

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Amid the squalor of this city's Southeastern district, Comcast Corp. won kudos from lawmakers, regulators and community leaders on Tuesday, when it launched free high-speed data service to an inner-city public school.

The complimentary services for Ketcham Elementary School, which serves about 500 students, marked the first time the MSO has wired a District of Columbia school.

Officials with Comcast — now in the midst of a $75 million upgrade of its Washington plant — said the operator plans to provide every public school and library in the city with similar free service.

"We believe in being a good corporate citizen," said Comcast mid-Atlantic division president Stephen Burch. "We put our money where our mouth is. It's what we're supposed to do."

Those in attendance at Tuesday's ceremony agreed.

"I really believe that in this day and age, access to advanced telecommunications ought to be seen as a civil right," said Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps.

"If we're going to get the job done nationally, it requires an engaged private sector," Copps added. "There is a prime need for just this kind of cooperative effort in addressing major challenges, such as the deployment of broadband. I hope other companies will follow Comcast's splendid example."

The district's delegate to Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), chair of a House panel with jurisdiction over the city, also came to thank and praise Comcast.

There's a need to demonstrate cable's goodwill — and services — in the nation's capital, acknowledged National Cable & Telecommunications Association senior vice president Rob Stoddard.

"Walking up to Capitol Hill every day, and walking up to the FCC every day, you want to be able to demonstrate what the industry is doing in the backyard of the Capitol," said Stoddard, who attended Tuesday's event. "This [city] is so important. It's where everything happens."

'Broadband Blvd.'

The event took place in a gymnasium decorated with fake road signs for the "Information Superhighway" and "Broadband Blvd." Laptops showed off wireless connections to the Internet and the school's local network.

Above the stage, computer projectors compared the speed of a 56K modem to Comcast's new 1.5 mbps cable network.

But reminders of Ketcham's problems remained. Thick metal screens shielded the windows. Two rickety basketball hoops — one with a tattered net, and another other with no net at all — were stashed in corners of the gym.

Comcast's solution: A $10,000 donation to "upgrade" the school's playground.

States News Service

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