Partnership to Increase Broadband Access in Kenilworth-Parkside in NE DC
Only about 25 percent of households in the Kenilworth-Parkside community in Northeast Washington have access to broadband internet, compared to about 90 percent of households in the affluent Georgetown section of Northwest D.C. That huge gap in internet access is what drives the partnership between Comcast and the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI).
In a special event moderated by Roland S. Martin at Neval Thomas Elementary School, DCPNI announced with Comcast the launch of the Internet Essentials Program, a partnership that will provide low-income families with internet services and digital literacy workshops. To date, Internet Essentials has connected nearly 220,000 families or 900,000 people in the United States to the internet, with over 5,000 in the D.C. area benefiting from the program so far. DCPNI and Comcast hope to increase this number.
Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said that current numbers show that 98 percent of children use the internet to do homework and 94 percent of households use the internet for general research.
Several community and non-profit leaders were on hand for the Sept. 24 announcement of the partnership including Alma J. Powell, chairman of America’s Promise Alliance and DCPNI honorary chair; Ayris T. Scales, DCPNI executive director; Jessica Rosenworcel, commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission; Irasema Salcido, DCPNI founder and president of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools; Cohen; and representatives from City Year, EduCare, the Tiger Woods Learning Center and Discovery Education.
“What excites me about this opportunity is the training that comes with it,” Scales said at the event. In addition to internet access, the program will offer free training to families in the community on how to use broadband services. Cohen added that the digital literacy training will ensures “understanding, engagement and involvement. [The program] will connect [students] in school, in the neighborhood and at home” he said.
DCPNI spent six weeks preparing for the launch. Scales said that she was “ecstatic” about the partnership. “This has been the best week ever,” she said.
This year marks the third year of partnership between Comcast and DCPNI. It also is the first year that the partnership expanded. Comcast took the first steps toward increasing internet access at the event by raffling off five new netbooks to students from Neval Thomas Elementary and Cesar Chavez Middle and High School Parkside campuses. The students also received an Opportunity Card, which ensures them free access to servers for a year.
Ruth Barnes, Neval Thomas’s principal, said that the Internet Essentials Program will “actively raise the quality of life for every child.” She added that the program’s goal is to provide practical, step by step assistance. “Our [the community’s] mission is to provide.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel added that internet access is vital for the success of children and families. “The more homes with broadband access, the stronger our communities will be,” she said.
DCPNI and Comcast hope to use the Internet Essentials Program as a model on how to bridge the digital divide in the United States. The program will provide 300 free netbooks to enrollees and afford residents in Kenilworth-Parkside with a DCPNI computer lab equipped with internet service courtesy of Comcast.
Alma Powell, honorary chair of DCPNI’s board of directors, summed up the effort best when she described numerous visits to the Kenilworth-Parkside community. “I love to come to the Promise neighborhood. Every time you come you see something new and different that is being built and developed. “
“It shows what can be done when a community comes together around one purpose,” Powell said.