Comcast Makes Digital Inclusivity a Priority in Atlanta

Comcast Makes Digital Inclusivity a Priority in Atlanta

Story and photos by Andrea Kjaer

“I’ve waited five years for an apartment to open up here,” Chanel Stroud said. “Hopefully now that I’m in Atlanta, I can finish up my GED.”

Stroud, like many other residents of Cosby Spears Memorial Tower, had come to the building’s conference room to hear a special announcement that would affect not only her apartment complex, but people all over Atlanta.

Notable community partners, including civil rights hero and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young and Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, joined Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen to announce the expansion of the company’s Internet Essentials program to senior citizens in Atlanta.

Through Internet Essentials, low-income families can secure internet access for less than $10 a month with no contract and no service, installation or equipment fees. By expanding the program to seniors in the community, Comcast stood with Atlanta in becoming one step closer to bridging the digital divide.

Ambassador Young, Atlanta Housing Authority CEO Catherine Buell, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Comcast Senior Executive VP David L. Cohen enjoy a welcoming introduction.

Ambassador Young, Atlanta Housing Authority CEO Catherine Buell, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Comcast Senior Executive VP David L. Cohen enjoy a welcoming introduction.

Since 2011, Comcast has contributed more than $350 million to digital literacy initiatives and $20 million in the state of Georgia alone, including 65,000 subsidized computers provided at less than $150 each.

After detailing the new features of Internet Essentials, the discussion at Cosby Spears Memorial Tower focused on some of the challenges faced by aging citizens, including access to the internet. For seniors to benefit from digital connectivity, though, they need to understand the benefits of it and learn the skills to use computers and digital technology.

The Origins of Internet Essentials for Seniors

Fourteen years ago, Tom Kambur founded Older Adult Technology Services (OATS) in New York City. His unique program helped seniors learn to use computers to connect with families and friends online, manage their money, stay safe and even make art.

Tom Kambur delivers a special gift to the operators of the SCLC Women's Shelter.

Tom Kambur delivers a special gift to the operators of the SCLC Women’s Shelter.

Then, 10 years ago, Comcast approached Kambur with the desire to learn more about how to bridge the digital divide in other diverse communities. Since forming a partnership with Comcast, OATS has been able to built 37 free technology centers. Kambur also has a working digital literacy curriculum of more than 2,000 pages and plans to establish a specialized program to meet Atlanta’s unique needs.

Almost half of the 45 million seniors in the US do not have internet. Kambur described this as a crisis. “I was thrilled because Comcast is the only major company doing digital inclusion work at the national scale,” he said. “This is an amazing thing.”

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Kambur has long been concerned with social justice. In college, he wrote his first paper about renowned civil rights activist, Andrew Young—who happened to be present for Comcast’s special announcement.

It is no surprise that Young also champions Internet Essentials. He encouraged the seniors in the room to get online. “Strengthen your life and extend your life by using the internet,” he said. “I plan to be working to 100.”

Jackie Joyner-Kersee has been a spokesperson for Comcast Internet Essentials for almost a year.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee has been a spokesperson for Comcast’s Internet Essentials for almost a year.

Another proponent of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program is also familiar with pushing herself beyond ordinary retirement. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, winner of six Olympic medals, finished her sports career to start a nonprofit foundation and community center in St. Louis.

Chanel Stroud holds up an important part of her future.

Chanel Stroud holds up an important part of her future.

“All I wanted to do was level the playing field and create an opportunity,” Joyner-Kersee said. “These are trying times. We don’t want to be left behind. We have to be sure people are job-ready and ready to use the internet.”

Comcast was also ready to help people use the internet—in a surprise giveaway, they provided a free laptop to every senior and resident who attended the event, along with six months of free service from Internet Essentials. The company also presented laptops to 22 Atlanta Housing Authority scholarship recipients.

For some in the room, the laptop was a gateway to personal scholarship and success.

Chanel Stroud hugged her new computer to her chest. “This is what I’ve been praying for,” she said. “Now I really can get started working on my GED.”

Lead photo courtesy of Comcast South.

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