Low-income students and their families who lack digital literacy skills and an internet connection at home struggle to keep pace with their peers in the classroom, as nearly all students (96.5 percent) say they are required to use the internet to complete homework assignments outside of school.* Cox Communications (No. 18 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and the American Library Association (ALA) have announced a new partnership that will strengthen and expand Cox’s commitment to connecting low-income students and their families with technology, providing a stronger foundation for success in the classroom, in continuing education and in job opportunities. Through this new partnership, more low-income families will have access to digital literacy training and resources in their local libraries and online at www.digitallearn.org.
Cox Communications President Pat Esser joined Public Library Association President Felton Thomas, Jr. at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library in downtown Tucson, Arizona to make this important announcement. The partnership with Cox and the ALA to expand digital literacy training for students and families is expected to boost educational and career opportunities. Those who receive formal digital literacy training (as opposed to informal assistance from family or friends) are significantly more likely to use the internet to pursue economic opportunities and cultivate social ties.**
“Experience with computers and the internet is necessary for competing in today’s digital world,” said Esser. “Through our partnership, we will ensure that the libraries never close for our families, expanding the reach of their digital collections and services, and empowering more families to experience limitless learning and full participation in the knowledge economy.”
In Tucson; Topeka, Kansas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cox and the libraries will pilot the deployment of enhanced digital literacy training and resources for families and library patrons. Research will be conducted to measure the outcomes of the pilot. In all Cox markets across the company’s 18-state footprint, Cox and the local libraries will collaborate on digital literacy and internet adoption initiatives, including an advertising campaign on Cox’s cross-channel cable lineup.
“Public libraries are a wellspring of possibility. With more than 16,500 physical locations in communities of all sizes across the country, we also make powerful partners in bridging the digital divide,” said Public Library Association (PLA) President Felton Thomas. “This new effort with Cox Communications effectively connects in-person digital literacy training with online DigitalLearn resources, extensive community outreach, and evaluation to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
With home broadband, the library never closes. Home broadband access expands the reach of libraries’ growing digital collections and services—empowering more people to experience limitless learning and full participation in the information age.
“America’s libraries combine the expertise of our librarians with a robust technology infrastructure and growing digital resources to advance digital opportunity for all in our nation,” said ALA President Julie Todaro. “We look forward to working with Cox to further extend our reach and resources to help more families thrive online.”
“Before we had internet service at home, we had to look for internet connections outside our home at places like fast food restaurants, libraries and other public WiFi areas, so my kids could complete their school projects. This made for a long night of homework,” said Ivonne Gomez, a parent of three students whose families is enrolled in Cox’s Connect2Compete discounted internet service program. “I also take advantage of the internet connection at home to stay on top of my kids’ grades, attendance information, and to communicate with teachers. Cox’s partnership with the libraries will help ensure all parents and students can take full advantage of the internet in their homes, making their lives easier and helping them to get ahead in the classroom and in the world.”
Connect2Compete is a program offering discounted internet service for families with at least one K-12 student living in public housing, qualifying for a free or reduced school lunch through the National School Lunch Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to a 2015 Cox survey, more than half of students are more interested in school and have improved grades after enrolling in Connect2Compete. Over the years, there has been no price increases, no activation fees and no equipment rental fees associated with the program. Last year Cox introduced free in-home WiFi for families enrolled in the Connect2Compete program, making it easier for multiple family members to access the internet connection at the same time. Families enrolled in Connect2Compete also have free access to more than 500,000 Cox WiFi and Cable WiFi hotspots across the country, in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Through public-private partnerships and a dedicated focus across the entire Cox organization, the company plans to continue leading the way in closing the digital divide in the communities it serves. Cox has been a leader in efforts to close the digital divide since the company first launched internet service in the late 1990s, and has made steady investments in its programs and initiatives.
**According to an ALA brief on libraries and digital empowerment