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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Comcast expands low-income internet program in Spokane, partners with Goodwill on technology lab

David Cohen, gesturing at center right, a senior vice president at Comcast, speaks before cutting a ribbon on a new computer lab at Goodwill Industries in Spokane Friday. At center left is Goodwill Industries CEO Clark Brekke. At the event, Comcast dignitaries announced donations of computers and broadband services to the nonprofit. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Comcast is expanding its cheap internet program for low-income residents in the Spokane region.

The expansion allows residents receiving any type of government assistance benefit to potentially qualify for $9.95 monthly internet service without a contract, modem fees, installation charges or a credit check.

The company announced expansion of its low-cost Internet Essentials program Friday, which doubles the number of eligible low-income households in Spokane County and includes people with disabilities and senior citizens.

The company launched Internet Essentials across its broadband network in 2011. Since then, more than 8 million low-income people have signed up for the low-cost internet program, including 340,000 residents in the state and 34,000 households in Spokane County.

Residents are also eligible for a low-cost laptop or desktop computer and access to 40 hours of internet service over Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots.

“The internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource,” said David Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer for Comcast NBCUniversal. “Whether the internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”

Comcast partnered with Goodwill at 130 E. 3rd Ave. to create a technology lab that provides internet and digital resources to the nonprofit’s job training program participants.

A majority of participants in Goodwill’s program have some level of disability and have low incomes. Several are military veterans. The new digital classroom, which opens next week to job participants and the community, includes technology to help with disabled individuals’ needs, such as adjustable tables on hydraulics.

Comcast, at an event Friday unveiling the interactive digital classroom, also presented a grant to Goodwill and surprised the nonprofit’s job program participants with 50 laptops and six months of complimentary internet service.

“We are thankful for the investment Comcast is making to bring to life Goodwill’s vision for a digital classroom that provides training in an inclusive and accessible environment to our community,” said Clark Brekke, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest. “As technology continues to advance and become a daily part of so many industries, more people need the skills to thrive in this employment environment. It is through partners like Comcast that our communities will be able to bridge the digital gap.”

Spokane resident Franklin James was referred to Goodwill by the Department of Social and Health Services’ division of vocational rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities overcome barriers in finding employment through counseling and job skills training.

He has since completed the Google IT support professional certification program through Goodwill and obtained a job with Bank of America earlier this year.

James said receiving a laptop will help him stay connected on the go.

“It will allow me to take notes and help people with their computer programs,” he said.

Cohen said digital literacy improves economic development by growing the potential workforce in a community.

“It’s the best way to keep the momentum for economic growth going and ensures that you’ve got a robust and significant workforce that is available to work in the jobs in your community,” he said.