In a press conference in front of City Hall on Wednesday, Baltimore City School student activists celebrated their victory after Comcast acceded to their demand that the company increase the speed of its low-cost Internet Essentials.
The advocacy effort was led by Baltimore City School students from Students Organizing a Multicultural Open Society (SOMOS). Kimberly Vasquez, a Baltimore City College High School senior and lead SOMOS organizer, told Buzzfeed News that the change will make a big difference to families like hers, which struggle to stay connected during remote learning. “This increase of speeds means so much to me because it means me and my sisters can hopefully access all of our classes simultaneously,” she said. “I’m feeling hopeful. It’s about time.”
City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who has supported and amplified the students’ demands, posted a picture with them on Twitter with the message, “We took on a global behemoth. And today, we won.”
In a statement posted on its website, Comcast cited several efforts to respond to increased demand during the pandemic, including providing free Internet Essentials service to new customers for 60 days, offering free access to public and outdoor WiFi hotspots, and providing free WiFi at hundreds of community centers. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to do even more to support digital equity and help families in need to stay connected,” the company said.
OSI-Baltimore has been one of many local and national organizations following the lead of young activists in urging Comcast to improve and expand access to its Internet Essentials program, as one element of a broader effort to narrow the enormous digital divide in our city and across the country.