Comcast Becomes The Internet Plug For Low Income Students As The Homework Gap Persists

Mar 31

By Keianna Dixon

  • Comcast is expanding its broadband service for low-income families to provide free access for 60 days
  • 25% of Black teens reported being unable to complete their homework at least sometimes due to the lack of digital access

More low-income students are getting plugged in as Comcast (CMCSA +2.66%), Charter (CHTR +2.52%), and other internet service providers (ISPs) provide free broadband service while increasing speeds as more schools close and turn to online education. Families who live in a Comcast service area can sign up as new customers to receive 60 days of free Internet Essentials service, which is normally available for $9.95 per month. This move comes after the Federal Communications Commission issued the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.

Why This Matters: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to American society, including widespread school closures. With schools turning to online learning, more attention has been given to the homework gap, which refers to the barriers students face in completing assignments when they lack digital access at home, including a traditional computer and broadband access. The homework gap disproportionately affects low-income students, especially Black kids in K-12 education. At the end of March at least 124,000 schools and 55.1 million school-age students have been affected, according to Education Week.

No child should be left behind so Comcast is expanding its broadband service for low-income families to provide free access for 60 days while increasing speeds

The homework gap is part of the digital divide, which affects a quarter of Americans who have no broadband access at home, including 12 million school-age children. A 2017 Pew Research survey found that  25% of Black teens reported being unable to complete their homework at least sometimes due to the lack of digital access, compared to 4% of white teens.  Right now, digital access at public spaces such as libraries is no longer an option for students as these spaces are closing along with schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Without digital access, low-income students potentially face long-term challenges to their academic performance.

Now in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19, the Federal government and ISPs like Comcast have stepped up to address the digital divide for low-income households. Families who live in a Comcast service area can sign up as new customers to receive 60 days of free Internet Essentials service, which is normally available for $9.95 per month.

Situational Awareness:  The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes $100 million for rural broadband infrastructure, though no funding that specifically targets the homework gap. This is despite an earlier effort by a group of senators calling for the bill to include $2 billion in funding for WiFi devices for students with limited digital access at home.

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Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to CultureBanx