Essentially, a Hand Up

Published August 13, 2013

I have heard several people over the years suggest some pretty crazy policy ideas related to the adoption of broadband, including one who suggested that if people will not adopt broadband in their house voluntarily that they might have to be forced to do so.Yikes! 


At best, that sort of small-minded, authoritarian bullying should be a call to arms for those who are willing to be more inventive and helpful in finding more ways to encourage broadband adoption, as some are already doing.


Two years ago Comcast began its own program – Internet Essentials.  The program is designed to get more students and families online by offering broadband and a home computer at drastically reduced prices for those who could least afford broadband.  The program is on track to sign up more than one million Americans in its first two years, making a real dent in the number people without broadband at home. 


And the program is not locking people into old technology, like many municipal broadband systems do since they rarely update the system.  Speeds are increasing yet again, a tripling of the download speed as well as an increase in the upload speed.


Eighty five percent of Internet Essentials’ customers indicate that they use the Internet every day, most (a huge 98 percent) often for homework — the most popular use.  But importantly, these low income families have also been using the online connection to try to better their situation.  Fifty eight percent of the customers report that they have been using the broadband service to search and apply for employment.


So, at no expense to taxpayers, over the last two years, the Internet Essentials program has improved the education and employment situation, and opportunities for a million citizens. But the cable industry campaign does not end there.  The NCTA, a trade association for the cable industry has a program that it began a couple years ago called Connect2Compete.  


“Connect2Compete (C2C) is a national non-profit organization bringing together leaders from communities, the private sector, and leading foundations.


Through its programs and the power of technology, C2C will improve the lives of Americans – regardless of their age, race, or education level. C2C will help Americans access technology through Digital Literacy training, discounted high-speed Internet, and low-cost computers.”


More resources for those who are least advantaged in our country and an entire industry stepping up to improve broadband access and education for everyone, without government direction or requirement.  These are the sorts of programs that should be cheered and encouraged.


Bullying and coercion certainly are not appropriate, nor are elaborate government entitlements.  Essential though are companies doing what they can, stepping up to be good corporate citizens, and  extending their hands to help those most in need.