Comcast and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania announced the expansion of an innovative Digital Navigator Network that will empower local residents in southwestern Pennsylvania. Beginning this month, the Digital Navigators will work at three trusted community organizations – Literacy Pittsburgh, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and YWCA of Westmoreland County – to help residents in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland counties learn more about and sign up for affordable Internet, use devices and acquire digital skills. A $363,000 grant from Comcast in support of this program will also help the United Way expand and sustain the capacity of its PA 211 Southwest 24/7 contact center, which connects individuals and families to health and human services in the region. The network supports United Way’s goals of helping people meet basic needs, move toward financial stability and build for success in school and in life.
To celebrate National Digital Inclusion Week, Comcast also donated a total of 300 laptops – 100 each – to Literacy Pittsburgh, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and YWCA of Westmoreland County to support their local efforts. These initiatives are part of Project UP – Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity and its longstanding commitment to bridge the digital divide.
“Connecting to the Internet and having the digital skills to fully participate have become basic needs. Through the Digital Navigator Network, United Way is developing a model to ensure that all individuals in our community have the opportunity to adopt broadband at home and have access to devices and digital skills to help them thrive,” said Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “Our collaboration with Comcast and partner agencies already working in the digital equity space, together with our robust PA 211 Southwest network, allow us to immediately begin connecting people to the training and resources needed to get and stay online.”
“Digital Navigator programs are powerful tools that allow us to work together to improve broadband adoption and close the digital divide across our neighborhoods,” said Ray Roundtree, Senior Vice President, Comcast’s Keystone Region. “We are proud to partner with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania to support individuals and families across the region and help them take advantage of all the Internet has to offer.”
Speaking about the importance of the program, Carey Harris, CEO of Literacy Pittsburgh, which is one of the three Digital Navigator Network partner agencies in the region, said “Broadband adoption and access to devices and digital skills training are absolutely essential tools for participating in the modern economy. Unfortunately, too many of our neighbors aren’t yet aware of the resources available to them. The Digital Navigator Network is a significant investment in expanding awareness and providing support for those who have been left behind and those who have just arrived.”
In addition, Comcast is offering exclusive Internet deals and spreading the word about eligibility for the Federal Government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides qualifying individuals with a credit of up to $30 per month toward their Internet and/or mobile service. Thanks to ACP, eligible Comcast customers can get home Internet either through Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus at no cost once the Federal credit is applied. Internet Essentials customers can also add a line of unlimited 5G cellular data ($45) through Xfinity Mobile for as little as $24.95/month after the ACP benefit is applied.
Comcast is deeply committed to advancing digital equity in the communities it serves. The company’s community partnerships in Pennsylvania over the past three years have totaled $144.7 million in cash and in-kind contributions to more than 646 local non-profits. This investment includes the installation of more than 190 Lift Zones in Pennsylvania, which provide free, high-speed WiFi service to local community centers to expand access to digital skills learning opportunities.
A similar Digital Navigator Network expansion to Greater Philadelphia area residents in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties and supported by ACLAMO, Beyond Literacy, Chester Education Foundation, Drexel ExCITe Center, Esperanza, Literacy Council of Norristown, Media Fellowship House and SEAMAAC is also being announced today. The model for these networks is the United Way Digital Navigator Network in Philadelphia that was developed through a grant from PHLConnectED, the City’s initiative to provide free Internet access to pre-K–12 students in need. PHLConnectED was launched with philanthropic support from Comcast, The Lenfest Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, Philadelphia School Partnership, William Penn Foundation, Fralic Family Fund, Hess Foundation, The School District of Philadelphia, select Philadelphia charter schools and Independence Mission Schools.