Comcast: Internet companies should support digital literacy training

Comcast, the nation’s biggest home broadband provider, has told the FCC that efforts to promote low-income Internet adoption must go beyond discounted monthly rates to include “digital literacy and relevance training programs”.  

In a letter posted on the FCC’s Lifeline modernization case documents site this morning, the Philadelphia-based cable giant recounts a November 13 meeting with senior FCC staff in which Comcast representatives “discussed lessons learned from Comcast’s Internet Essentials program”:

.. [R]esearch [from Internet Essentials]… show[s] the critical importance of addressing a bucket of digital literacy and relevancy issues in order to meaningfully tackle the broadband adoption gap. We highlighted that closing the digital divide is fundamentally dependent on a comprehensive approach that addresses digital relevance and digital literacy, the cost of computing equipment, and the cost of broadband service. We further discussed the second study of Internet Essentials customers by Dr. John B. Horrigan. Called Deepening Ties, it examined the evolution of customers from non-adopters to adopters. Perhaps the most striking finding of this report is that the real key to economic and personal empowerment through broadband adoption comes when you combine Internet access with formal training and education. For example, the study found that those who received formal digital training were 15 percentage points more likely to use the Internet to look for a job.

We emphasized that the success of Internet Essentials is due to its design as an integrated wrap-around solution that marries low-cost high-speed Internet access with training and education and access to a low-cost computer, and the reason that it is structured as a partnership between Comcast and thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.

In light of the research, we discussed that the Commission should promote the development of comprehensive broadband adoption programs. We further discussed that a way to do this would be to include in Lifeline reform a requirement that broadband providers accepting Lifeline support implement digital literacy and relevance training programs.

(Link to the Horrigan study added.)

Of course, this is exactly what CYC and our allies in the Coalition for Broadband Equity are asking the FCC to require of Charter Communications as a condition of approving its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable.

Thank you, Comcast.