Bret Perkins, VP of Comcast Corp., Leads ‘Internet Essentials’ to Close Digital Divide
Despite the wide proliferation of smartphones throughout the urban community — coupled with an inordinate number of minorities engaging in a plethora of social media platforms — a socioeconomic dilemma of considerable proportions is developing and expanding that has dire future consequences: the Great Digital Divide.
Comcast Corporation launched a multi-pronged campaign to reverse this disturbing trend on a variety of fronts. Comcast announced the establishment of the Internet Essentials program nationwide, offering low-income families in its service territory for $9.95 a month Internet connections and the ability to purchase to $150 laptop or desktop computers.
The reason behind offering these programs is to expose millions more minorities and low-income consumers to the vast and extremely fruitful world of the information superhighway (Internet) and to derive the infinite benefits and opportunities thereof — and not just social media, which many African American and Hispanics have a proven propensity to lean towards.
“It’s really emblematic now of really understanding behaviors online. African Americans and Hispanics over-index for the use of mobile technology, in particular smartphones. And the two groups over-index in social media online,” explains Bret Perkins, Comcast Corp.’s vice president of external and government affairs.
“Smartphones are not [made] to do certain things, like help with education. If you have children at home, it is very hard to do homework on a smartphone,” Perkins says. “You can’t do a [class] paper on a smartphone. If you want to apply for a job, you can’t do that from a smartphone by itself. Typically, you will need computer access and high-speed Internet access.”
This is how Comcast’s Internet Essentials program works:
- Any family with at least one child who qualifies for the free or reduced lunch program at public schools can subscribe to a 3.0 Mbps Comcast Internet connection for $9.95 a month. Subscribers also cannot have “an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment,” and they can’t have had Comcast Internet in the last 90 days.
- Comcast pledges to not raise the price and offers the plan without equipment rental or activation fees.
- Comcast has agreed to sign up families to the program for at least three years, and it also promises to provide free Internet and computer training to those who need it.
- “They also can purchase a computer for $150,” Perkins said. “We have been selling net books for $150 and we announced a deal recently that we will be working with a company called Redemtech that sells refurbishing of laptops and desktops.”
Why is this endeavor so important? In contemporary society, where Internet technology predominates, students and young adults must have access to the world wide web in order to complete their assignments and complete scholastically, as well as compete for the job market, Perkins explains.
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski corroborates Perkins and Comcast’s assessments. There is a school in Florida where the students must hold classes in the parking lot of a library at night because that is the only place the teacher and the students can access the Internet. Without it, instruction is made more cumbersome and the disadvantaged students cannot begin to compete with their more affluent counterparts. Accessing the Internet via a smartphone is nice for social activities, but it is woefully inadequate to provide sufficient preparation for underprivileged children to compete in the intercontinental job market.
“And even those who have access, they don’t get the full value of the Internet” Perkins said. “You can do entertainment and other activities, but you are missing all of the other components that can actually improve your life.”
And that is the purpose of Comcast Corp.’s Internet Essentials.