Charter Communications, along with California State Senator Steven Bradford and the Museum of African American Art, presented a new low-cost, high-speed broadband service for low-income families and seniors on Thursday, August 17.
The event was held at the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles, to discuss the importance of digital literacy and bridging the broadband divide, and to introduce Charter Communication’s new Spectrum Internet Assist program.
Among the lineup of speakers were Senator Steven Bradford of the 35th district, Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) president and chief executive Nolan Rollins, and Dr. George McKenna who represented the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
“There is truly a digital divide in California and it crosses not only economic communities, but racial communities as well,” said Bradford who has been actively working towards internet accessibility. In 2013, he introduced a bill to bring broadband internet into public housing. He has also been involved with the California Advance Technology Fund in making sure Wi-Fi is provided in public communities like libraries and schools.
Students and children were priorities in the digital divide discussion. McKenna, who has been serving in the LAUSD for over 50 years (and was played by Denzel Washington in a movie about his work), shared his thoughts on the importance of the internet for students.
“The willingness to give access to lower income people falls right into my world,” said McKenna who came to the neighborhood in 1965 and has been serving the LAUSD ever since.
The LAUSD is larger than all of the other nine districts combined, shared McKenna before stressing the importance of preparing students for the future through internet access.
“The world is changing so fast, “he said. “Technology is moving fast, and we need to prepare [children and students] for jobs that don’t even exist yet.”
Nolan Rollins, president and chief executive of LAUL, a nonprofit that has partnered with Charter Communications and its service, shared similar words.
“A child’s ability to see the world should not be limited by their zip code,” said Rollins. He further asked, “How are we going to change the trajectory our children are on, and be sure that they could be better than we ever thought we could be?“
Two of the programs that determine qualification for the Spectrum Internet Assist program are the National School Lunch Program (NLSP), a federally assisted meal program, and its Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
A Place Called Home, a nonprofit in South Central Los Angeles that works with underserved youth, was one of the many organizations present at the panel. Charter was a supporter at the organization’s annual back-to-school drive this year. The drive was a chance to provide Spectrum Internet Assist information to families interested.
Senior citizens were another point of discussion as attendees shared about new health care advances that many seniors are unable to keep up with.
Despite having grown up without internet access, a majority of seniors are omitted from new benefits and conveniences. One example given was that many were unable to access health portals used by their physicians and hospitals.
Because low-income is also evident in the senior community, having a household member as part of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program also qualifies for eligibility.
According to a 2016 AARP report entitled “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans 50 and Older”, Asian Americans are the most likely racial group, among seniors, to rely on SSI and they do so at a higher rate than other racial groups. Over 28,000 Asian American seniors in Los Angeles County live in poverty and almost 74,000 have low-income. Furthermore, 46 percent of Asian American seniors living alone fall below the poverty line.
In May of 2016, Charter bought both Time Warner Cable and Bright House through a $65 billion merger, making it one of the biggest television providers in the United States. Other giant providers are AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Spectrum became Charter’s cable TV and broadband service.
Pushing the approval of the merger was Charter’s plan of providing high-speed Internet service to low-income families with a focus on students and seniors.
In a March 2016 Los Angeles Times article, president and chief executive of nonprofit California Emerging Technology Fund said, “Charter is not just buying a big new service area — they are buying the digital divide.”
The article reported that about one-third of the homes in Charter’s then-proposed California service area were considered low-income — nearly 2.3 million. It also added that nearly one-quarter of Los Angeles County residents had no internet access at home.
“We need to do more,” said Bradford in the panel when addressing the service as an important step towards bridging the digital divide.
“We need to work together — no matter what age you are, what gender you are, whatever you are,” shared McKenna, also emphasizing the importance of moving forward. “We’re all in this together.”
Charter Communication’s Spectrum Internet Assist program will deliver industry-leading 30/4 Mbps broadband speeds for $14.99/month for eligible families and seniors. Standard features include email, internet security software, and modem at no additional cost.