Comcast Partners with YMCA in $15M Deal

The new multi-year partnership, among others announced on Monday, is tied to Comcast's Internet Essentials program.

Left to right: Mayor Kenney, David L. Cohen, Darrell Clarke and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

Left to right: Mayor Kenney, David L. Cohen, Darrell Clarke and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

On Monday, in a series of announcements, Comcast delivered on its commitment to narrow the country’s digital divide.

At Olney Elementary School in North Philadelphia, David L. Cohen, Comcast’s senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer, announced that the company, as part of its Internet Essentials program, will award a total of $100,000 to 10 local non-profits that provide technology-related resources to the communities they serve.

And later on at Philadelphia’s Columbia North YMCA, Cohen announced Comcast’s new $15.3 million multi-year partnership with the YMCA of the USA, a deal that will allow the company to support the YMCA’s academic achievement programs for youth nationwide. Comcast announced that it will also donate a total of $50,000 to five YMCA centers, one in Philadelphia, Central Maryland, Memphis, Houston, and Indianapolis.

This year marks Internet Essentials’ sixth back-to-school season launch, Cohen said and currently, about 33,000 families in Greater Philadelphia have signed up for the program, the company says. Nationwide, about 750,000 families or 3 million people connect to the internet at home using Internet Essentials.

Cohen was joined at Olney Elementary School by Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia School District superintendent William Hite, City Council president Darrell Clarke, councilwoman Cherelle Parker and Internet Essentials spokesperson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. About 50 seventh and eight graders from Olney Elementary school sat front row.

“Internet Essentials is a lifeline for our residents to look for jobs, help our kids do their homework, and access other vital online resources,” said Mayor Kenney.

Adding, “We’re proud of the progress being made here in Philadelphia and we appreciate the significant investments that Comcast is continuing to make that will have the enduring impacts on our community.”

Philadelphia ranks fourth in the country for the number of families using Internet Essentials, about 1,300 families behind Miami. Chicago leads the country with almost 43,000 households connected through the program.

The ten non-profit organizations that will receive funding from Comcast—Concilio, Congresso, the Dornsfire Center at Drexel University, Girls Inc. of Greater Philadelphia and Southern NJ, People Emergency Center, Philadelphia FIGHT, Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, SPIN-Norcom Community Center and Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center—were selected because of their efforts to provide digital literacy training and internet access to families.

Through the partnership with the YMCA Comcast says it is trying to further the mission of community organization and level the playing field for low-income families.

“We are proud to elevate the impact of the Y, an esteemed, leading national nonprofit, and to work together in the communities we mutually serve and help connect even more people to the resources they need to achieve their dreams,” Cohen said.

A few eighth graders I spoke to at the event said they weren’t familiar with Internet Essentials. “I have an idea of what Comcast is,” one Olney Elementary School student told me. One student said his family uses Linksys for access at home, another said he relies on his phone’s data for internet and the other student said he simply didn’t have internet access at home at all. But by the end of the event, the students said they were prepared to tell their parents about the program, especially since Comcast gifted every student in the audience an HP laptop.

The company recently released a five-year progress report that details some of the program’s milestones, including providing more than 54,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each and offering Internet Essentials to more than 55,000 schools in more than 5,000 school districts in 39 states and Washington, D.C.

This summer Comcast made a major change to the program’s eligibility requirements—all HUD-assisted households within the Comcast service area are now eligible for the program. Previously, only families with children eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program were eligible.

Critics of the program still cite other barriers for families: customers must not have subscribed to regular Comcast internet service within the last 90 days and applicants cannot have outstanding debt to the cable giant that is less than a year old.

Philadelphia is Cohen and Joyner-Kersee’s last stop on the Internet Essentials multi-city back-to-school tour this year where the company announced more than $2 million in grants to community organizations across the country that work to tackle the digital divide.

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