To bridge digital divide, city-wide Beyond the Laptops initiative connects Pittsburgh Public School families to Comcast Internet Essentials

two girls holding Internet Essentials laptops at Comcast event

Pittsburgh, PA (June 2020) – Neighborhood Allies’ Beyond the Laptops has partnered with Pittsburgh Public Schools to provide a year of high-speed internet access through Comcast’s Internet Essentials Program to 1,000 PPS families across the district.

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ March ‘Home Tech Survey’ identified around 7,000 families needing computers and 1,000 families without internet. Responding to the unprecedented strain on families as COVID-19 lockdowns cut families off from school and work, the Beyond the Laptops campaign raised nearly $400k in April and May to tackle Pittsburgh’s digital divide. Since then, Neighborhood Allies worked with Computer Reach and other area partners to close the device gap by refurbishing and distributing 1,200 laptops to Pittsburgh Public Schools, community organizations in high-priority areas, and DHS.

“The digital divide is just one of the challenges that COVID-19 exacerbated in our most vulnerable communities, including health inequities, food insecurities, job losses, and achievement gaps,” said Neighborhood Allies’ President Presley Gillespie. “One individual or organization cannot address these complex issues alone. That’s why we are uniting with our partners and neighbors to build resilience, capacity, and deconstruct injustices.”

This week’s connectivity deployment enables families to more fully participate in a society digitizing at breakneck speed in the wake of COVID-19. To round out Neighborhood Allies’ three legged “Devices-Connectivity-Education” approach to closing the digital divide, remote STEM and workforce programming will launch this fall in collaboration with partners at Homewood Children’s Village, Hill CDC, CCAC, and the University of Pittsburgh.

“Almost nine years ago, Comcast launched Internet Essentials and set a bold goal,” said Michael Parker, Senior Vice President, Comcast Keystone Region. “We are committed to closing the digital divide for low-income Americans so that they enjoy success at school, at work and in their communities and we are proud to work with Neighborhood Allies and Pittsburgh Public Schools to help achieve that goal.”

In the coming weeks, Pittsburgh Public Schools will contact eligible families to connect them to Internet Essentials. Eligibility criteria includes eligibility for public assistance programs and residence within a Comcast coverage area. Individuals or families ineligible for coverage through PPS are encouraged to contact Pittsburgh’s Financial Empowerment Centers to speak with a qualified financial counselor about “budgeting for digital access” by calling 1-800-298-0237.

You can learn more about Beyond the Laptops and follow results at BeyondtheLaptops.org.

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