Project UP! Unlimited Possibilities
DIGITAL EQUITY = Broadband Internet access + a computer + digital skills (regardless of where you live or how much money you have)
Comcast believes everyone should have unlimited possibilities. That’s why in 2021 we launched Project UP, a 10-year, $1 billion commitment to help make digital equity a reality in the communities we serve here in Chicago and in our footprint across the nation.
My grandfather’s favorite phrase was, ‘every man puts their pants on one leg at a time.’ He was a farmer with a third-grade education born in the segregated south. He never lived in a world with the Internet, but the notions of equity and humanity embodied in that phrase guide me. To me, digital equity it is about bringing the humanity to connectivity. The desire to connect people to the world and one another and give them unlimited possibilities is core to Comcast’s DNA. It’s everything from being able to learn digital skills and advance in an ever-changing digital economy to more simple things, like being able to use the power of the Internet to share the wisdom your grandfather shared with you when you were five years old.
Carl Jones, Jr., Regional Vice President of External and Government Affairs, Comcast
Now in its 12th year, Internet Essentials has helped Millions of People Connect to the Internet at Home
Announced in May 2011 from Chicago’s Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Internet Essentials is now the nation’s largest broadband adoption program. Internet Essentials provides low-cost Internet service to eligible income-constrained households with students of all ages – from kindergarten to college – seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, as well as public housing residents. Internet Essentials has two tiers, Internet Essentials (speeds: 50 Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload) for $9.95/month and Internet Essentials Plus (speeds: 100 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload) for $29.95/month, each plus applicable taxes and fees. Internet Essentials also offers participants subsidized computers for $150 if they want and options for free digital skills training. In addition, Internet Essentials participants can access Comcast’s network of more than 385,000 WiFi hotspots in the City of Chicago and more than 22 million nationwide. Internet Essentials has connected more than 10 million people nationally and more than 1.6 million in Illinois to the Internet at home since it launched in 2011. Households with individuals participating in a variety of government assistance programs may be eligible.
Comcast participates in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible households up to $30/month toward their Internet and/or mobile bills. ACP can cover the full cost of both Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Plus, making them free! ACP participants can apply the $30/month to either of our Internet Essentials tiers and/or any of our Xfinity Internet or Xfinity Mobile plans. Click here for more information about ACP and for eligibility criteria. In addition, our Xfinity Stores throughout the city are equipped to help visitors learn more about and enroll in ACP.
We’re Proud to Connect the Bulk of Chicago Connected Households
During the height of the pandemic, Comcast created the Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP) and joined hundreds of school districts, housing authorities and other government agencies in its footprint nationwide to connect school children to the Internet at home for distance learning. Chicago Connected, Comcast’s largest IEPP, sets the standard for programs like it nationally. Comcast is proud to connect the bulk of Chicago Connected participants to the Internet through Internet Essentials.
Chicago Connected participants get their Internet service for free. So, if they’re eligible for ACP, they can apply the $30/month to their mobile bills.
Lift Zones Fill the Gaps
Not every Chicagoan can get access to Internet service at home. Some people don’t have stable housing. Others may live in environments that aren’t conducive to studying or working. Comcast created its Lift Zone program for them. Lift Zones are safe places where school children can get online for remote learning and homework, and adults can get online to access government, healthcare and other services, do research, search for jobs and build digital skills. Comcast has built more than 1,300 Lift Zones across the country, including 48 in community-based organizations in neighborhoods across Chicago. Forty percent of Lift Zone visitors said they wouldn’t have had Internet access had it not been for a Lift Zone. Click here to find a Lift Zone near you.
Network Architecture and Investment are Digital Equity Issues
The way our Xfinity 10G Network is designed allows us to deliver the same services and customer experience virtually every place we provide service, regardless of the zip code. We deliver download speeds up to 1.2 Gbps to almost every address in Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. The company invested $20 billion in its network nationwide over the last five years – $1.3 billion in Illinois in the last three alone – to deliver an even better customer experience, even faster Internet speeds, even more robust WiFi and the capacity to serve the burgeoning number of connected devices in our homes.
Working Together, We’ve largely Addressed Access in Chicago. Now, we can Focus on Digital Skill Building
Unesco defines digital skills as “a range of abilities to use digital devices, communication applications and networks to access and manage information.” A recent National Skills Coalition (NSC) report found that 90 percent of jobs advertised in Illinois required at least one digital skill. However, previous NSC research found that one-third of workers don’t have these skills. Together, these findings point to a significant digital skill divide. The report also found that public investments in closing the digital skill divide can benefit workers, businesses and the economy at large.
- Workers who qualify for jobs that require even one digital skill can earn on average 23 percent more than workers who don’t qualify for jobs that require a digital skill. Moving from a job that requires no digital skills to one that requires at least three can increase pay by an average of 45 percent.
- Increased earnings could generate more state and federal tax revenue. Depending on the household size and composition, the increase could range from $1,363 to $2,879 in additional tax revenue per household per year.
- Turnover costs for businesses (estimated at $25,000 when a worker quits within the first year to over $78,000 after five years) can be averted or delayed by ensuring that workers have upskilling opportunities.
A RISEing Tide Lifts all Boats
Comcast RISE was created to help businesses owned by women and people of color survive the pandemic and thrive as we emerge from it. Through the RISE program, Comcast helped more than 13,000 businesses – more than 1,000 here in this region alone – through direct $10,000 grants, free technology upgrades and Comcast Business services and free marketing support, ranging from TV commercial production and free airtime to the development of marketing plans.
Being There: Providing Ongoing Support
When it comes to digital equity, Comcast doesn’t believe in “won and done.” Making digital equity a reality requires a consistent heartfelt commitment over the long term. Comcast has provided more than $191 million in cash and in-kind donations to community-based organizations in Chicago since 2011 to support initiatives, ranging from digital skill development and digital navigator programs to building tech labs. Here are some highlights from the years:
Hidden Genius Project: Comcast provided $2 million in funding to support the organization’s expansion to Chicago and Atlanta. The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.
Our continued partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal will equip us to engage even more Black youth with the skills, experiences, and networks to find their way into family-sustaining career pathways, including the tech sector. With ample access, our young people regularly realize their potential to pursue meaningful and exciting pathways, and subsequently create future opportunities not only for themselves, but also their entire community.
Brandon Nicholson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, The Hidden Genius Project
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago: Comcast provided $500,000 in funding to support digital navigators and tech labs at six YMCA locations in Chicago. Digital Navigators are individuals affiliated with trusted community organizations, like the YMCA, who are trained to help people access the Internet, use computers and other devices and build digital skills.
The digital equity work undertaken during the last decade by the YMCA, Comcast and our many other partners continues to bring knowledge, joy and connection to the individuals and families we serve. More and more people in our communities feel empowered to get online, to learn and to build the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in school, in the workplace and in life. As the world becomes increasingly digital, investments like the one Comcast is making in the YMCA will go far in helping us fulfill our mission of connecting all people to their potential, purpose and each other.
Dorri McWhorter, President and CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
Chicago Public Library Foundation (CPL): Comcast provided $500,000 in funding for “Experience Labs” at 11 CPL branches. Experience Labs are spaces that bring together three CPL programs – YOUmedia, CyberNavigator digital skills tutoring for adults and Maker Lab – and also host other types of programming.
Let’s Partner to Close the Digital Divide
No one who’s eligible for ACP, Internet Essentials or any Internet adoption program should go without Internet connectivity at home. We stand at the ready to partner with community-based organizations, the faith-based community, government agencies and wards across the city on efforts designed to close the digital divide – ranging from back-to-school events to Internet Essentials and ACP sign-up events. For more information, contact:
Community Investment Manager
Comcast Covers Chicago
- People: More than 850 employees, including Comcast Cable, Effectv, NBC and Freewheel
- Xfinity Stores in Hyde Park, Lake View, Lincoln Park, McKinley Park, West Loop, West Pullman and Uptown
- Office, engineering and warehouse facilities in Chicago Loop (Effectv and FreeWheel), Gage Park, Hermosa, Lincoln Park, Roseland and Streeterville (NBC)
- Network infrastructure: 6,300+ miles of network serving all 77 Chicago neighborhoods
- Network investment: $1.3 billion in Illinois in the last three years
- Internet speeds: Residential download speeds from 50 Mpbs to 6 Gbps and commercial speeds up to 100 Gbps
- WiFi hotspots: 385,000+
- Community investment: $191 million in cash and in-kind donations to community-based organizations in Chicago since 2011
- Lift Zones: 48