Cox Communications appears to be in step with new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's focus on closing the digital divide, stepping up its efforts in concert with the American Library Association.
Cox president Pat Esser plans to announce later Friday that the company is boosting its long-standing Connect2Compete efforts—since the late 1990s—to provide broadband access to low-income Americans by increasing access to digital literacy training for students and families at libraries and online.
The company points out that more than nine out of 10 students say internet is required to do their homework.
Cox says it will create, in partnership with the ALA, customized training courses in both English and Spanish in Tucson (where Esser will announce the effort), as well as Topeka and Baton Rouge, then study the outcomes.
In addition, all Cox markets and local libraries in those markets will "collaborate on digital literacy and internet adoption initiatives, including an advertising campaign on Cox’s cross-channel cable lineup."
Cox customers will be able to access training at www.digitallearn.org, as well as in many of the 1,500 libraries in the company's footprint (18 states).
“Experience with computers and the internet is necessary for competing in today’s digital world,” said Esser in a statement about the pilot project. “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.”
“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 of the joint effort. “We look forward to working with Cox to further extend our reach and resources to help more families thrive online.”
Cable ops have long said that digital literacy, in addition to access, is a key component of driving broadband use. "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," says Cox.
Cox has been a major force in Connect2Compete, the industry program providing discount broadband to families of kids eligible for school lunch programs. In addition, last year Cox began offering free in-home WiFi for Connect2Compete participants.