Across our footprint, we strive to provide the resources needed to create the best future for individuals and their families. And we know that one of the best ways to do this is to close the digital divide.
I’ve seen first-hand the transformative power our partnerships can have on communities. From students excelling, to jobseekers securing opportunities, and entrepreneurs seeing their businesses thrive, we help possibilities come to life.
Last month, I was honored to join other leaders at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin to discuss the importance of ensuring rural communities are equitably served through investments in broadband expansion, connectivity, and digital skills training to equip these communities to thrive in our increasingly digital economy.
In Texas, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 7 million people do not have access to broadband that meets the current federal definition for high-speed Internet. With more than 4 million households still eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) in Texas, the state has a 40% participation rate – ranking it 20th in the nation. We are helping to improve these results by raising awareness of the ACP and expanding our broadband networks.
As the federal government distributes Broadband Equity and Deployment (BEAD) funding to Texas, an essential part of the solution is to work with local lawmakers and leaders to develop the infrastructure needed in these regions to get people Internet access. But we know that isn’t enough – and it’s why we are keenly focused on going beyond the build. Having reliable Internet is a key step, but investing in and becoming a part of a community to learn its unique needs and to help solve digital divide challenges, including affordability, digital literacy, skills building, and more – is the first step.
One of the most impactful ways we reach communities and connect these critical pieces is through local partnerships with trusted organizations. In Houston, we are collaborating with remarkable organizations like SERJobs, which primarily serves diverse low-income adults, U.S. veterans, formerly incarcerated adults, and young adults by providing education, training, employment, and financial empowerment services. Our partnership supports their digital navigator program, where trained individuals teach community members like 72-year-old Ms. Jo Ethel Campbell how to use the internet, develop skills, and access vital resources –– bridging the digital divide for southeast Texans.
Comcast has a long and proud history in Texas and a current investment of $2.8 billion and thousands of connected customers.
I’m thrilled to share we have dedicated an additional $100 million to reaching more than 80,000 more homes throughout Southeast Texas, and specifically rural areas in serious need of service. This is the largest one-year broadband expansion that Comcast Texas has ever had.
We’ve only just begun to see the first signs of what’s possible and where our work can and will take us. In Waller County, for example, County Judge Trey Duhon was a visionary advocate for high-speed Internet access that would drive economic growth for his community. By working together to build needed infrastructure, we have seen transformative, new economic vitality in the region from national and international companies announcing locations in Waller and creating more than 4,000 jobs.
We hear so many stories like these from throughout the Southeast Texas region – and in rural, underserved communities across the country. They are inspiring and motivating, demonstrating what’s possible when we work together to create digital opportunity and close the divide. Our work is not done – we have millions more to reach. I know that together with our partners, we will continue to make strides toward a future where no one remains left behind, and everyone has the chance to realize their dreams with a full set of digital resources and skills at the ready.
Dalila Wilson-Scott is EVP & Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation and President of Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.