With distance learning in mind, two former Steelers are teaming up to bring the internet to 250 Pittsburgh families, through Comcast’s Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP). One thousand more families will get high-speed internet through a similar partnership with Neighborhood Allies and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Former Steeler William Gay, now a coach at Missouri State, donated $7,500 to former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch’s Best of the Batch Foundation, which will be matched by Comcast. It will be used to provide Comcast’s Internet Essentials to 250 local families for free for 10 months.

“When the COVID-19 shutdowns started and schools had to close, I thought of all the kids that don’t have the internet at home and who already struggle every day because of the tough circumstances they are growing up with,” says Gay. “These children and their families are disconnected from the valuable resources of the internet that will help them succeed in school and in life. With reliable home internet service from a provider like Comcast, they can get fully connected and help level the playing field.”

Internet Essentials is a program that helps connect low-income families to the internet.

Anyone who qualifies can sign up for Internet Essentials, which includes 60 days of free internet service for new customers. If someone is eligible for one of the many qualifying programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the National School Lunch Program or a VA pension, they can sign up. See the full list of qualifying programs here.

“Basically, it (Internet Essentials) is giving these low-income families access to the same high-speed internet that other folks may be using at home, but for under $10 a month,” says Josephine Posti of Comcast. “It also gives them access to a low-cost computer or laptop if they need it, as well as some digital literacy training.”

All Internet Essentials users now have access to the xFi platform, which enables parents to control and manage children’s Wi-Fi, set safe browsing modes and pause devices for dinner or bedtime.

The Internet Essentials Partnership Program has already collaborated with 70 schools across the country, including Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).

Internet Essentials event at The Neighborhood Academy. Photo courtesy of Comcast.

“In the PPS partnership, the 1,000 families who are part of that partnership, they will have Internet Essentials for one year for free,” says Posti. “Then, if they choose to continue afterwards and pay the $9.95 a month on their own, they’re welcome to do that.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools did a home tech survey during the spring shutdown, to see what the exact needs were in the district. That helped them identify the 1,000 families that will get Internet Essentials for free.

“Internet Essentials has been around for 10 years,” says Posti. “Every year we expand it a little more and add some new qualifiers. Everyone has had to pivot during the pandemic. What we’re doing this year with trying to develop these partnerships is really going to help to get every family connected who needs the internet.”