By Sarah Corday

On Friday, October 27th, 2017 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Comcast would donate $250,000 to three Chicago public libraries.

Along with Chicago Public Library (CPL) Commissioner Brian Bannon and Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) CEO Eugene Jones Jr., the mayor joined Comcast Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen to announce the investment, which will support “Experience Labs” powered by Internet Essentials at the following libraries:

  • The Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in Washington Heights
  • The Whitney M. Young Branch in the Chatham neighborhood
  • The new Altgeld Branch, which will be co-located with CHA housing in Altgeld Gardens.

Comcast’s investment with the Chicago Public Library Foundation brings three library programs together into a unique Experience Lab for Chicago residents. Current programs include YOUmedia digital labs for teens, CyberNavigator digital skills tutoring for adults, and Maker Lab, an award-winning manufacturing lab. By allowing a designated space in each library for these programs, Chicagoans will have access to workforce and digital skills training as well as lifelong learning programs.

I am incredibly grateful for corporate partners like Comcast that are helping to close the digital divide in Chicago by supporting vital efforts like Internet Essentials and these new Experience Labs,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By making the right investments together, we are able to support our residents in building the digital skills necessary to participate in the 21st century economy.

Emanuel stood at a podium and spoke to a small audience, which included several news cameras. Behind him, group of fresh-faced high-school seniors formed a semi-circle, grinning.

Jones also spoke at the event. “We are excited about this opportunity for our CHA residents,” he said, later adding, “We look forward to nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.”

He then introduced Dorian Scott, a CHA resident who has greatly benefited from the Internet Essentials program.

I’m a young mom of four children, ages 5 to 16,” began Scott. “I heard about the program [after] seeing flyers at my kids’ school at the computer lab, but I didn’t really…” She paused for a moment. “I didn’t really put forth much effort because I had owed past bills to Comcast, so I didn’t think I qualified.

She continued, “But I took a chance. One day I was doing a job search [online] and I signed up for [the program] and I got approved for it. They came to the house…a few weeks after that I [received] a laptop.”

The audience applauded. “After being unemployed and working part-time jobs here and there, things started looking up for me, so I had a little extra hope.”

Scott stressed that having the Internet at home allowed her to do more job searching as well as check her email every day, something that would’ve been infinitely more difficult if she had to rely on public places to get connected. The result? Scott says, “I am now full-time employed.”

Since 2011, Comcast has been working to close the digital divide and bring the power of the Internet to low-income families in Chicago and throughout the US. Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program, is a crowning achievement of Comcast’s brand. 57,000 low-income Chicago households are connected to high-speed Internet service at their homes via Internet Essentials – and this number continues to climb. Since Comcast launched this program in May 2011, more than four million people around the country have benefited. 

At the close of the event, Cohen took to the mic again for two additional announcements. One was that the company will increase the program’s Internet service speeds up to 15/2 Mbps. This is the fourth increase since the program began in 2011, and is the number one requested enhancement from Internet Essentials customers.

The second announcement was that each student present at the event would receive their very own laptop, courtesy of Comcast.

This announcement was met with gasps, squeals, and applause from the students, who may as well have been told they’d won the lottery.

And yet, with how valuable the Internet has become, they may as well have won the lottery; for few commodities today offer more information, convenience, and access to economic and financial advancement.

That’s certainly the case for Scott, who said she found full-time work about two or three weeks after getting her at-home Internet connection. And as a resident of CHA’s Altgeld Gardens, she and her family will directly benefit from Comcast’s donation, which will go towards building and Experience Lab at the new Altgeld branch.

I have had a long journey,” Scott said. “And with the Internet, I have a little light in my life.