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Chairman Genachowski Remarks at Comcast Internet Essentials Event

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Released: September 24, 2012

REMARKS OF FCC CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI

COMCAST INTERNET ESSENTIALS EVENT

JOINT CENTER FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES

WASHINGTON, DC

SEPTEMBER 24, 2012

Thank you all for joining us. Thank you Ralph Everett and the Joint Center for hosting us and for
the Center’s valuable research which has given us a better understanding of what we need to do
to close the digital divide.
Thank you John Horrigan who will be leading today’s panel discussion. John was one of the
chief architects of the National Broadband Plan’s broadband adoption strategy.
Thank you to Comcast and David Cohen for your important and vital work with the Internet
Essentials program. I'm also pleased to hear that Tony Dungy has signed on to serve as national
spokesman for Internet Essentials.
Efforts like Internet Essentials and Connect2Compete hold enormous promise and reflect the
best in public-private partnerships to address pressing national issues. In this case, the digital
divide.
In 2011 Comcast worked with the FCC on a commitment to provide discounted broadband
service to millions of low-income Americans.
Focused on two million families who qualify for the free school lunch program, Internet
Essentials as originally introduced provides $9.95 a month broadband, $150 PCs, and digital
literacy training.
I commend Comcast for stepping up its original commitment. Earlier this year, Comcast
extended the program to an additional 300,000 families that receive reduced price school lunch,
and doubled the speed of the Internet Essentials broadband service.
The concept is important, but the results are what matters. And today, through Internet
Essentials, more than 400,000 Americans are enjoying the benefits of broadband for the first
time. That’s good news for these Americans and good news for our country.
Why is it so important that eligible families take advantage of broadband adoption programs like
Internet Essentials? It’s important because being online is essential to full participation in our
21st century economy.
Broadband gives every American with an Internet connection access to a world of new
opportunities that otherwise would be beyond their reach.
Now, in the past few years we’ve made some progress on closing our broadband adoption and
digital skills gaps.
For example, Latino and African American adoption rates are up about 10% over the past few
years, and Internet-connected smartphone adoption rates among minority populations are higher
than the national average.
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But despite this progress, there is more work to do. 30% of Americans still don't have broadband
at home. This matters more every day as the costs of digital exclusion continue to rise.
In today’s world, you need broadband to find and apply for a job, and increasingly you need
digital skills to get and keep jobs. Almost all Fortune 500 companies post their job openings
exclusively online.
Almost all require online job applications – from Wal-Mart and Target, to many small
businesses. Altogether, over half of today’s jobs require technology skills, and nearly 80% of
jobs in the next decade are projected to require digital skills.
When it comes to education, the costs of digital exclusion are high and rising. Increasingly,
student opportunity suffers, materially, if they can’t do online assignments at home and if
teachers can’t connect with families.
Just last week I met with a group of superintendents who see digital learning as their single
biggest hope for their students' learning and futures. They were from North Carolina, New
Mexico, Georgia, Idaho, and Florida. They said their number one roadblock was lack of student
broadband access at home.
The LEAD Commission that Secretary Arne Duncan and I helped form has identified the same
concern. Led energetically by TPG's Jim Coulter, and including Columbia President Lee
Bollinger, former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, and Common Sense Media founder
Jim Steyer, the LEAD Commission is preparing a blueprint for a national strategy for education
and technology, and they too are watching with great interest Internet Essentials and
Connect2Compete.
At the FCC, all of this terrific work is informing our implementation of the new Connect
America Fund, and our ongoing reform and modernization of the E-Rate program, the Universal
Service High-Cost Fund, and Lifeline programs.
Protecting and promoting competition in the broadband marketplace is also a big part of the
FCC’s broadband adoption strategy.
Competition maximizes broadband providers’ incentives to add customers and is critical to
ensuring consumers have affordable choices for broadband.
We all must continue to push forward and work together to tackle broadband challenges.
That’s why I’m pleased to hear that, today, Comcast and Connect2Compete are announcing a
partnership, starting with device distribution.
I’m also pleased to hear that the Department of Labor's job centers will help spread the word
about Comcast Internet Essential’s offerings, joining Connect2Compete, which has a similar
marketing arrangement.
Secretary Solis knows the importance of broadband access and digital literacy skills to finding
and keeping a job, and I commend her leadership at the Department of Labor for partnering to
promote broadband adoption.
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Internet Essentials and Connect2Compete are making a real impact, connecting hundreds of
thousands of Americans to our digital economy and society.
Let’s keep working together to forge a future where all Americans benefit from broadband.
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