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Comcast Will Spend Millions Developing And Promoting Khan Academy To Encourage Low-Income Broadband Adoption

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Comcast has committed to pumping millions of dollars into a joint partnership with Khan Academy that will pay for product development of its free, online education and promote it alongside Comcast’s cheap broadband access tier Internet Essentials for low-income families. Comcast’s executive VP David Cohen believes that backing Khan Academy will boost digital literacy and get more people paying for broadband because ”its content is the ultimate proof point of the value of the Internet.”

Khan Academy co-founder Sal Khan and Cohen announced the new partnership today on-stage at The Atlantic’s Silicon Valley Summit at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum.

Cohen wrote today that “We’re announcing a multi-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive partnership designed to raise awareness…of Khan Academy and…Internet Essentials. This is one of the largest commitments we have made to a non-profit partner and includes a financial contribution, hundreds of thousands of PSAs a year, and significant digital promotion.” Comcast will directly provide funding to help Khan Academy build out its product. Khan tells me this includes creating a suite of full-featured interactive mobile app next year that goes beyond the basic video-watching mobile app it has now.

30% of Americans currently don’t have broadband Internet access. The program is designed to convince families that the Internet is critical to their economic success, with Khan Academy as the poster child for how the web can improve lives. The financial support of Comcast for online education certainly has a philanthropic aspect, but also stands to attract it new $9.95 a month Internet Essentials broadband customers. The program, open to families with at least one child eligible for the federally assisted National School Lunch Program that makes meals more affordable for low-income families.

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Cohen explained on stage that “The number one barrier to broadband adoption is digital literacy skills. And Khan academy is the number one solution. We’re going to put the largest allocation of our resources behind Khan Academy and promoting Khan Academy nationally, driving additional hits to that website. And we believe in doing that we’re not only going to give kids and families access to this content… but drive larger broadband adoption in America.”

Khan followed up saying that people need broadband access at home to get the full benefit of Khan Academy. Khan hopes that through programs like this, the whole country will get online and become better equipped to compete in the new global job market.

After Khan and Cohen got off stage, I spoke with them about how the partnership will move the needle for their two companies.

When asked if the drive was just a way for Comcast to sign up more customers, Cohen passionately defended Internet Essentials, saying “When we sell an Internet service for $9.95 that we normally sell for $39.95 to $49.95, we’re not in it for the money. It’s not a great business for us. If you look long-term, it’s community investment priority not a business priority.” He did admit, though, that “In 10, 15, 20 years we’d like to to hope this population will be making money and could be Comcast customers…or Time Warner customers, or AT&T customers.”



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