A child Facetimes with her grandparents after school and shares her report card—straight A’s. A young adult is searching for jobs on LinkedIn, excited to take the next step in their career in urban planning. After putting his children to bed, a single parent joins his virtual evening class, the last course he needs for his degree in business administration.

Digital technology has become almost essential for navigating daily life in today’s world. More than just a convenience, the internet provides connection to opportunities—to work, education, health care, banking, and more.

Yet, in the Chicago region, though internet service is available in all 77 neighborhoods and the surrounding suburbs and programs that can cover its cost are in place, some households still aren’t connected. And in many predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods, the percentage is disproportionately higher. What’s keeping some families from getting online? The cost. Which is why programs like Comcast’s Internet Essentials are so important to bridging the digital divide.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials provides low-cost, high-speed internet for low-income households. In the last decade, the program has helped more than 10 million Americans connect to broadband. And now, Comcast is deepening its impact through the program in Chicago by partnering with United Way of Metro Chicago and our Neighborhood Network Initiative.

“Comcast partners with local communities to pass on the importance of being connected and provide low‑cost internet service,” said Jourdan Sorrell, senior manager of external affairs for Comcast. “With the largest internet adoption program in the nation, we stay true to our mission of empowering our customers and enriching communities with technology, and we’re committed to building digital equity and helping families in the Chicago region thrive.”

As we approach the beginning of another school year, having access to reliable, fast internet at home is especially vital to encourage student learning outside of the classroom. This year, Comcast is partnering directly with our Cicero and Brighton Park Neighborhood Networks to expand digital equity and raise awareness about Internet Essentials to get more families online. Households on especially tight budgets may even qualify for free broadband through Comcast’s Internet Essentials and the Affordable Connectivity Program.

“Agencies on the ground in our Neighborhood Networks are often busy responding to immediate needs, so this partnership with Comcast helps build their capacity to reach more families and bridge the digital divide,” said Rebecca White, senior manager for capacity building at United Way of Metro Chicago.

Our Cicero and Brighton Park Neighborhood Networks—led by the Cicero Community Collaborative and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council—are ready to connect their residents with these invaluable programs. They know who is in need and have a proven track record expanding digital equity in their communities.

In 2020, through Chicago Connected, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council joined corporate, city, philanthropic, and community partners to provide free, high-speed internet to 228,000 Chicago Public Schools students and their families over four years. And the Cicero Community Collaborative has partnered with their school district to ensure students have access to learning devices and the internet.

Both agencies utilize robust in-school parent-mentor programs, which will continue to serve as a key bridge getting more families online. As trusted and knowledgeable leaders, parent-mentors will be trained on Comcast’s Internet Essentials and the Affordable Connectivity Program. Not only will they expand their own skillset, but parent-mentors will also serve as a crucial resource for other parents and families to increase their digital literacy and get affordable—or free—internet at home.

“Our partnership with Comcast and our Neighborhood Networks in Cicero and Brighton Park is an example of United Way living out our mission and bringing together different stakeholders to build equity in communities so all families can thrive,” said Chris Preston, chief development officer for United Way of Metro Chicago. “Cultivating these relationships between corporate and community partners is vital to reducing the digital divide and creating more opportunities for our residents.”

Learn more about how our Neighborhood Networks support families and build thriving communities.