How Comcast’s Internet Essentials Puts Opportunity at a Family’s Fingertips

By Jamar Johnson, Manager of HR Systems and Quality Management and lead for Comcast NBCUniversal’s Black Employee Network
Feb 28, 2017 10:50 AM ET
Blog

For the Watson family, it is the people behind the history makers that spark their interest.

Meet Everel Watson, a single mother of four, who works tirelessly to teach her children to appreciate not just the individuals who make it into the history books, but also the people who helped shape the course of their lives. Living in the house their grandmother grew up in, and hearing about her life first-hand, has afforded Everel’s children a unique perspective on African American history.

The Watsons became part of Comcast’s Internet Essentials family when they signed up in November of 2015, joining the more than 750,000 households enrolled to date in the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, and most successful broadband adoption program for low income Americans.  Everel learned about Internet Essentials at St. Francis Community Center, where she volunteers her limited time, and where three of her children attend after school programs.

Before having an internet connection in their home, the Watsons had to travel to their local library or other locations with publicly available Wi-Fi in order to get online. Having to travel to the library during its open hours, or to a local business with—often bogged down—public Wi-Fi, was a considerable burden. These challenges made it difficult for Everel to do many of the things necessary to provide for her family, like updating her resume, hunting for new job opportunities, or searching for a new place to live. All this time spent traveling and sitting in coffee shops meant time away from her family. Taking advantage of the internet’s full capabilities was an outright luxury the Watsons didn’t have. Unfortunately, this problem is far too common in the United States. In fact, more than 40% of households making under $35,000 annually, currently do not have a home internet connection[1].

When Everel was asked what was the most important aspect of having the internet at home, she replied without hesitation, "Access. Because I have the internet at home I can access information I never could before."  For Everel, access enables her to research educational programs for her children and professional development programs for herself; for the children, access means more easily keeping up with their schoolwork, giving them more freedom to just be kids; for the family as a whole, access affords them more time to explore Black History together, especially in February, when we focus on this rich and vibrant culture. Now, the lives of famous individuals from W.E.B. Dubois and Frederick Douglas to Shonda Rhimes and Barack Obama, as well as the stories of the lesser-known individuals who influenced them, are all at the Watson family’s fingertips.

With the internet at home—and access to a world of knowledge and opportunity—Everel is focusing on what matters most and educating her four future history makers in the process.

As a Comcast employee, I am immensely proud of the Internet Essentials program, and the company’s commitment to bridging the digital divide. In my role as the leader of the Comcast NBCUniversal Black Employee Network (BEN), I have the opportunity to strengthen the relationship between BEN and Internet Essentials by encouraging our members to become Internet Essentials Ambassadors. Many of our members already serve their communities in meaningful ways, and sharing information about Internet Essentials is a natural extension of that.

As I reflect on Black History Month, and what it means to me as an African American, I find myself particularly drawn to and heartened by the Watson family, and I can’t think of a better story to share.

To learn more about Internet Essentials, click here.

[1] United States Census Bureau; 2015 American Community Survey, 1-year estimate