Back-to-School Home WiFi: How Internet Essentials Bridges the Digital Divide

PMB is delighted to partner with Comcast to bring you the information in this post. We are thrilled that Comcast offers digital access and literacy training to low-income Americans in an effort to bridge the digital divide; please consider sharing with your schools and community!

“Mom,” yelled my second-grader from upstairs, a little panicked, “I can’t get the image to print!” 

We were one week away from his project’s due date. The poster board had been procured, outline was written, and markers were ready. While I patted myself on the back for not putting everything off until the last minute, my son was visibly nervous about not meeting his one-week-away deadline. 

I trudged upstairs and saw the collection of images to be printed in his Google Docs, marveling at how far we have come in this new age of kid research projects. After quickly troubleshooting our WiFi printer connection, he was off to the races, printing and cutting documents in a flurry of project prep. 

Kids at Computer

I stepped back for a moment to think about how bringing his project together required access to a computer, the internet, and years of experience navigating the waters of modern technology. Revealing my age a bit, I can still recall the days of the Dewey Decimal System and hand-written book reports. Do you remember physical encyclopedias? If I suggested we head to the library to look up something in an encyclopedia, my kids would think I’ve lost my mind. “Why don’t we just Google it?” they’d say, no doubt. 

The Digital Divide

This is a generation of children who learn to type alongside learning to write by hand. They look up recipes online instead of in a cookbook. Students check their grades via internet-based accounts. Computer literacy is a necessary component to student success, and it is as fundamental to a classroom as school-provided textbooks.

However, most aspects of digital schoolwork, including home internet, are NOT provided by schools. While all children deserve access to the same educational tools, the financial burden of online access falls almost entirely on families. The cost is significant, boxing lower-income children out of a large portion of today’s education.

Internet Essentials

Thankfully, our partners at Comcast are doing what they can to close this digital divide by providing connection and hardware to qualifying families via their amazing Internet Essentials program. Through Internet Essentials, families access low-cost home internet service (currently $9.95/month!) and free digital literacy classes, offered both in-person and online. Participating families also have the option to purchase an internet-ready computer for only $149.99. There are no hidden fees, no installation costs, and no activation charges.  

Families qualify if they are eligible for public assistance programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, and many others. Internet Essentials was established in 2011 and has provided over 8 million low-income Americans access to the digital world at home. The company has invested more than $650 million in digital literacy training as part of the Internet Essentials core offerings. This year, Comcast announced the expansion of the program to include more than 3 million newly-eligible households.

When I first learned about Internet Essentials, I thought back to my six-year-old’s project, how much he had relied on our home technology to complete it, and how nervous he had been about finishing on time. How differently would this have looked if we hadn’t a computer or internet? PPS has 24 Title 1 schools (my son’s included), where this digital divide is only growing. I am thrilled to share Internet Essentials with our schools’ PTAs and community members who may benefit. Many thanks to Comcast for spearheading this program!

Looking for More Information About Internet Essentials

(From the Internet Essentials website.)

To qualify, your household must:

  • Be in a Comcast serviceable area.
  • Receive state and/or federal assistance.
  • Not have any level of Xfinity Internet service now or within the last 90 days.
  • Not have an outstanding Comcast balance less than one year old.

Your household must also be eligible for or receive public assistance like:

  • Medicaid: Federal Healthcare Program.
  • NSLP: National School Lunch Program.
  • SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Housing: public housing assistance including HUD, Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers, etc.
  • TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • SSI: Supplemental Security Income.
  • LIHEAP: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
  • Federal Pell Grant: Community college financial aid (CO and IL only).
  • WIC: Women, Infants, and Children.
  • VA: Veterans Pension eligibility determination letter from the Veterans Administration.
  • Tribal Assistance program including TTANF, FDPIR.

Learn more about this incredible program by visiting

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Lee Ann
Lee Ann moved to Portland in 2008 following an eight-year stint in Paris, France, where her eldest was born. Though she thought nowhere could compete with the City of Lights, the City of Roses immediately stole her heart. As a great place to raise kids, she loves getting out and exploring the city and the PNW with her husband and four young children. While in France, Lee Ann earned a B.A. in Journalism and a Master's in Linguistics at the American University of Paris and L'Universite de Paris - La Sorbonne, respectively, before returning stateside to become a Speech-Language Pathologist through the Portland State University graduate program. Throughout her studies, she kept one foot in the digital world, writing content for publications and creating websites for clients. After many years as a medical Speech Pathologist, she left to the field to continue freelance writing, become the owner of Portland Mom Collective (!), and to create a crafting/workshop space for PDX makers. She likes to spend whatever "me" time she can muster making soap, geocaching, jogging, sewing, and staring at the wall with no small humans talking to her. Get in touch by sending a note to leeann {at} portlandmomcollective {dot} com, or follow her on Instagram.