Mayor Emanuel Joins Comcast to Announce Major Investment in CPL Branches
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Library (CPL) Commissioner Brian Bannon and Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) CEO Eugene Jones Jr., joined Comcast Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen to announce that the company is investing $250,000 to support “Experience Labs” powered by Internet Essentials at three CPL locations:
- The Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in the Washington Heights neighborhood;
- The Whitney M. Young Branch in the Chatham neighborhood; and
- The new Altgeld Branch, which will be co-located with CHA housing in Altgeld Gardens.
Comcast’s investment with the Chicago Public Library Foundation brings together three CPL programs into a unique Experience Lab for Chicagoans of all ages to enjoy. Current programming includes YOUmedia digital labs for teens, CyberNavigator digital skills tutoring for adults, and Maker Lab programming. Funding will support a designated space at each of the three branches for CPL, community organizations and other providers to deliver services to library patrons. Programming and services will range from workforce and digital skills training to lifelong learning programs –in an environment offering access to innovative technology and the Internet.
YOUmedia, CyberNavigator and Maker Lab programs are vital to CPL branches. The nationally recognized YOUmedia program, which will expand next year to a total of 20 free digital media labs around the city, creates links between students’ academic studies, their personal passions, and opportunities to engage with skilled mentors and peers who support and share their interests. Through August of this year, over 9,500 teens participated in YOUmedia workshops, representing a 29% increase over the same period last year. CPL’s Maker Lab is an award-winning advanced manufacturing lab that brings together people of all ages to explore their creative interests and strengthen Chicago’s economic competitiveness. CyberNavigators guide Chicagoans through the digital world and assist with online job search, communication and workforce readiness.
Comcast today also announced Internet Essentials program enhancements will be offered to all qualifying households in Illinois for no additional cost. The company will increase the program’s Internet service speeds up to 15/2 Mbps. This is the fourth increase since the program began in 2011, and is the number one requested enhancement from Internet Essentials customers. Additionally, to help family members connect to the Internet on the go and save money on their wireless bills, Internet Essentials customers will now enjoy 40 hours of free out of home WiFi access per month to the company’s growing network of 18 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots. This WiFi access is offered in addition to the free in-home WiFi Internet Essentials customers currently enjoy.
Comcast has been working to close the digital divide and bring the power of the Internet to low-income families in Chicago and locations across the nation for years. Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program, is the centerpiece of Comcast’s efforts. 57,000 low-income Chicago households have been connected to high-speed Internet service at home via Internet Essentials to-date. Since Comcast launched this program in May 2011, more than four million people around the country have benefitted.
Comcast has also supported CPL’s CyberNavigators, or digital skills tutors, at library branches citywide through additional grants to the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Through the support of many civic-minded individuals, corporations and foundations, the Foundation provides on-going funding for collections and a range of community-responsive programs, including Teacher in the Library, CyberNavigators, YOUmedia and One Book, One Chicago.
CPL is the largest provider of free digital access in Chicago, having provided over 1.3 million people free access to library computers in 2017. Its 80 branch locations provide free library services, resources, technologies and tools that Chicagoans need to reach their goals.
Since 2011, the City of Chicago has invested over $200 million to enhance library buildings and services. CPL announced multiple modernization and infrastructure projects at neighborhood branches, including a new branch in West Loop and major renovations to Whitney Young, Chicago Bee and Kelly branches. CPL also announced a first of its kind partnership with Chicago Housing Authority to co-locate four libraries and renovate a fifth.