THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: David Cohen

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People,Lisa Gartner

Many low-income students in the District don't have easy access to Internet, making it harder to complete their homework assignments. Enter Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, who was at Kramer Middle School recently to kick off the second year of Internet Essentials. The program subsidizes Internet service and provides low-cost computers and free training to District families living in poverty.

Why this program?

The Internet shrinks the world when it improves access to education, health care, news. There's a cruel irony at play in America, where the Internet is available so vastly disproportionately that a significant divide has been created. In the suburbs -- mostly populated by white people -- broadband is adopted by 80 to 90 percent of the population. But in lower-income areas, mostly centered in cities, with people of color, it's 10, 15, maybe 25 percent. America is the richest nation on Earth; this should be unacceptable to everyone in this country.

How does this play out in the schools, for kids?

The kids in particular understand how important this is: They see what certain lucky friends of theirs are able to do with the Internet. They can do homework at home instead of going to the library and waiting in line for an hour and then getting kicked off because someone else is waiting, or have to stay late to use a computer lab at school. I heard a story from a woman last year who had an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old. On the first day of prekindergarten, her 4-year-old had homework to be done on the Internet dealing with the alphabet and numbers.

Pre-K?! That's young.

It is. I think we have long passed the days where the Internet is a luxury or a toy. Imagine trying to teach without books. I think teachers now are asking the question "How do we teach without the Internet?" It can't be done.

- Lisa Gartner

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