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Spotlight: Beyond Literacy Helps Connect Adult Learners to Devices and Broadband| Michael Butler

The numbers are trending up: Per a summer 2021 survey conducted on behalf of the City of Philadelphia, 84% of residents have broadband connections in their homes, up from 70% in 2019. Part of the credit for that change goes to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which offers discounted services to low-income households.

It’s a reminder that digital access remains indispensable, as does institutional support in boosting it.

The Center City-headquartered telecommunications giant recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Internet Essentials by pledging an additional billion dollars over the next decade. With this program and by working with partners including adult education nonprofit Beyond Literacy, it’s working to continue to expand digital literacy in Philadelphia.

Comcast hosted an unveiling event at Beyond Literacy’s new campus at 100 W. Oxford St. in Kensington earlier this month, where it presented 1,000 free laptops and $30,000 to be split between Beyond Literacy, The Welcoming Center and SEAMAAC (Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition), all of which serve immigrant communities.

Bob Smith, the regional VP of community impact at Comcast, said he noticed that as eligibility for Internet Essentials expanded in recent years and now reaches not just younger students, but older adults, immigrants, refugees and adult learners, there is a need for literacy in the more traditional sense of learning to read, as well as digital literacy resources that worked in tandem.

“We had been talking about the new Beyond Literacy campus and this opportunity to celebrate both things,” he told “We want to really jumpstart the work we’re doing with adult learners. There are so many segments of society that are left behind. We have to work with each of them where they are. When we first brought the idea to [Beyond Literacy CEO] Kimmell Proctor, we talked a lot about this issue over the last several weeks.”

In addition to its Kensington campus, Beyond Literacy has West Philadelphia and Center City campuses to help the organization reach its goal of educating 2,500 adults. Comcast’s aid during the pandemic has been valuable, Proctor told

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