Comcast’s $100 million commitment to fight injustice and inequality already impacting Indy
It can be difficult to quantify the local impact of a global corporation like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and its major U.S. subsidiaries Xfinity, Comcast Business and NBCUniversal. With more than 190,000 employees, about 6,000 of whom live and work in Indiana, there’s simply no doubt that the telecommunications conglomerate has a significant influence on the daily happenings in the Hoosier state.
Whether you are personally a services customer or not, the likelihood that you regularly interact with a Comcast-owned property like a broadcast or cable television channel, movies, animation studios, streaming services or content distribution is incredibly high. The fact is, when a company the size and scope of Comcast presses on the gas in an area like diversity, equity and inclusion, for example, you’re going to notice.
What Comcast is doing to help communities
“Comcast has always been committed to diversity, but in 2020 during the pandemic and the social unrest following the killing of George Floyd, we really started looking at the country and the communities we serve and saw just how far we have yet to go as a society,” said Pamela Dover, senior director with Comcast. “As a major American corporation with a global impact, we saw that it was time for us to take a bigger public stance and lead on these issues that affect our employees and customers alike.”
To that end, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts announced that he was allocating $100 million to fight injustice and inequality. He made the commitment on June 8, 2020, as protests were erupting across the country and Americans were just beginning to wrap their heads around the watershed events unfolding that would spark major changes.
The multi-year, far-reaching plan Comcast developed includes initiatives, programs and products organized into five primary areas of action: Social Justice; Comcast Employees; Media, Awareness and Education; Digital Equity and Small Business Opportunity. You can view the original commitment letter and resources to learn more about each of the five pillars of Comcast’s plan.
“I think it says a lot about our leadership and the company that Brian could make that $100 million commitment in two weeks time following that awful day last year,” Pamela said. “More importantly, we leapt into action and those dollars were being put to good use helping people immediately, including black-owned small businesses in Indianapolis through the Indy Black Chamber and young people learning coding skills through Code Black Indy.”
How Indianapolis businesses are benefiting
Larry Williams knew the pandemic was going to hurt Black-owned small businesses in a significant way. As executive director of the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce, Larry was already keenly aware that many Black-owned businesses operate under weaker financial conditions, which makes them vulnerable to short-term disruptions and twice as likely to fail during a situation like the pandemic.
“The people at Comcast Business were actually the very first people to reach out to us right when the pandemic hit,” Larry said. “They understood that the black business community would be hard hit by the COVID shutdowns and restrictions and that’s exactly what happened. Nationally, more than 40% of Black-owned businesses have closed for good, but with Comcast’s help, we were able to offer 18 local businesses Relief Fund grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.”
The Comcast RISE initiative, which funded the grants distributed by the Indy Black Chamber, is a multi-year commitment to provide marketing, creative, media, and technology services to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned small businesses. The program is still going strong and selecting new grant recipients quarterly. Applications for the next quarter are due by May 7, 2021.
A partnership that goes beyond the norm
Through the Comcast “Lift Zone” initiative, Code Black Indy’s new tech lounge inside the Christamore House on the near Westside is getting fiber optic internet service. It’s part of a joint plan between numerous community partners to bring free, high-speed community Wi-Fi to the Haughville neighborhood.
This Code Black Indy project in Indianapolis is one of at least 1,000 WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” in community centers nationwide intended to help connect low-income families to the Internet so they can fully participate in educational opportunities and the digital economy.
The initiative not only provides free Internet connectivity, but also access to hundreds of hours of educational and digital skills content to help families and site coordinators navigate online learning. Lift Zones complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which is celebrating its 10th year and a new commitment to invest $1 billion to close the digital divide for 50 million Americans.
“Comcast heard about our ambitious plan to bring community Wi-Fi to Haughville and they really took an interest and wanted to help make it happen,” said Samuel Campbell, president of Code Black Indy. “The fiber internet is essential for our eSports gaming teams so it’s amazing to have this partnership with Comcast, but really that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything we’re doing and planning on doing together.”
Indiana-based Comcast employees are also getting involved with the new tech lounge working with Code Black Indy to help adults in the community gain the skills they need to follow high-wage career paths like the technician jobs offered at Comcast. Employees are also doing mock interviews, resume review and building sessions helping up-and-coming tech workers and career changers convert from minimum wage or entry-level positions to sought-after tech jobs.
What’s next? Get involved.
“We really need more adoption of these programs in Indianapolis and across the state of Indiana,” Pamela said. “We’ve made the commitment and we’ve proven that we can mobilize and make an impact fast like we have with Indy Black Chamber and Code Black Indy, and now we need more great ideas to fund and communities to support … basically, we just want to do a whole lot more. Please tell everyone you can to visit our website to learn more about what we have done so far and how they can get involved and hopefully take advantage of these incredible opportunities.”