Comcast Upgrades Its Digital Literacy Site

Comcast has revamped the Learning Center on its Internet Essentials website to include a social media tutorial, a guided tour and seven new digital literacy education videos featuring TV celebs. Videos feature Al Roker, Sara Haines and Jenna Wolfe from NBC’s Today. Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts and NBC’s Kate Snow and Joelle Garguilo also host training sequences.

The short videos cover topics such as how to search, email basics and using social media. The site also guides users toward resources for education, healthcare and employment. Additional videos from NBC Learn focus on Internet safety and security, including modules on spam, spyware and cyberbullying. Free digital literacy training is available online, in print and in-person.

Comcast also enhanced its free Internet safety and security software to include the Constant Guard Protection Suite.

Educators and others can learn more at Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 855-846-8376.

Ed. Note:

Internet Essentials is a broadband adoption and digital literacy program that Comcast launched in 2011 to partially fulfill the terms of an agreement it made with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when it won approval for its joint venture with NBC Universal in January 2011. The program offers low-cost monthly broadband ($9.95) to qualified low-income households with children. It also offers computers for $149.99.

The controversial venture transformed one of the nation’s largest cable and broadband suppliers into one of the nation’s largest content producers and distributors. Objections to the deal centered on the potential for the company to give priority to the delivery of its own content to the detriment of content from other entertainment, information and sports producers. Because Comcast is the dominant delivery service in many markets, some regulators and many content providers are concerned that Comcast could subtly or blatantly restrict access to their programming. Imagine if before the advent of cable one of the three major broadcast networks owned the public airways and forced the other two to pay for broadcast time.

The deal went through because Comcast was able to make the case that there is sufficient ISP competition in the marketplace. It also agreed to give up its management rights in Hulu and to adhere to certain open Internet requirements that prevent Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content. 

There are many ways to characterize Comcast’s deal with the DOJ and FCC. The word coercion jumps to mind. Would Comcast have been motivated to provide low-cost broadband access to low-income households if it didn’t have to? Would the company for a moment have considered committing millions of dollars to digital literacy training? 

Digital literacy is an economic and social imperative. We are still dragging our analog tails behind us — we need to speed up the process of digital evolution. We need to do whatever it takes to shove this country and its citizens into the Digital Era. 

It would be nice if major corporations would recognize that it is in their own best interests to invest in digital literacy. It would be nice if corporations themselves became digitally literate — from the boardroom to the loading dock. It would be nice to see companies embed literacy 2.0 into their mission statements. 

It would be nice.

But, as the line in E.T. goes, “This is reality, Greg.” This is one of those cases where the ends really do justify the means. If the companies won’t do it voluntarily, then I’m all for whipping up a little regulatory shakedown.


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