Internet Is Essential
All students need free access to high-speed, reliable internet before school starts.
In coronavirus times, “back to school” is a joke unless every single child gets high speed, affordable or free, online access. In Philadelphia, and in dozens of cities nationwide, Comcast is the monopoly internet provider – and the barrier keeping our kids from the high speed, quality internet they need to get their education in COVID times.
Internet access is essential. And the digital divide has become a crisis. In times like these, the internet is the only way to stay connected and meaningfully participate in society. Work, school, and even doctor visits are happening online. Everyone deserves access to the internet, no matter what their income is. Comcast says they’re giving temporary free access to “Internet Essentials,” a promotion program. But it is so hard to access to it that Philly’s school district lost over 1000 kids this spring that couldn’t get online. Not to mention, the connection speeds and quality are so low, it is essentially useless.
While Comcast refuses to invest in the needs of the communities whose backs they thrive on, they’re spending thousands donating to the Philadelphia Police Federation, a foundation that gives the police department money to buy military equipment. Comcast cares a lot about maintaining a corporate image that says “Black Lives Matter.” But if Black lives truly mattered to Comcast, the first thing it would do is make sure that thousands aren’t shut out of the internet, in a crisis, because they can’t afford it.
Comcast has all the resources to meet the needs of families held back by the digital divide. But for some reason, Comcast isn’t feeling the pressure and it’s up to us to band together and make sure Comcast feels the heat from Philadelphians.
We need Comcast to:
1 – Open up residential hotspots for students and families to use for free
- Opening up residential hotspots is the only way to ensure that every single person has internet access – otherwise cost and technology barriers will keep people offline
- With open hotspots, families with challenges signing up or paying for Internet Essentials will maintain access to the internet
- Comcast could open the private residential wireless network without degrading our home connections or privacy.
2 – Increase connection speeds for Internet Essentials so that students and families can actually participate in crucial services that require faster speeds
- The “Internet Essentials” program as it is currently structured is insufficient to meet the needs of the current crisis and beyond.
- If a family is lucky enough to get “Internet Essentials,” the speeds are too slow for any meaningful participation in online learning, leaving students dropping out of classes and struggling to stay connected all day. These students are still left behind if their classmates who can afford it are on Zoom while they are struggling to connect.
- Families with multiple students and parents and others trying to use Internet Essentials for school and work can’t all stay connected at the current speed
3 – Extend the Internet Essentials program beyond December as long as there’s a need.
- As long as schools are online, every student needs reliable access to high-speed internet
- To access the basics and fully participate in society you must be online. The internet should be accessible to everyone, no matter their income.
- For public school to be truly public, internet needs to be free as least as long as school is online
4 – Reduce the sign-up barriers for Internet Essentials so that families who need it aren’t boxed out by red tape and hidden fees.
- Many families are unable to sign up for Internet Essentials due to back bills or other logistical issues that Comcast refuses to acknowledge.
- The Internet Essentials program excludes those who previously were paying full cost for their Comcast internet connections who are no longer able to afford exorbitant internet rates because of job loss and other COVID-19 financial stress. It excludes undocumented families and those who are housing insecure who cannot fill out the the paper work.
5 – Make a commitment to stop donating to the Philadelphia Police Federation and any other police foundations across the country.
- Comcast is one of many wealthy corporations that donates millions of dollars to the Police Foundation, allowing them to purchase military tanks and riot gear.
- The best thing Comcast could do to support Black lives is invest in free internet access for students right in its own backyard here in Philadelphia. Invest in internet for Black students and families, divest from police federations and surveillance.