Comcast Senior Vice President for the Western New England Region Dennis Mathew is a compassionate leader who has been included in the Philadelphia Business Journal and Multichannel News “40 Under 40” list. Cablefax: The Magazine named him one of the “Most Influential Minorities” in the cable industry.
Dennis sits on the board of two nonprofit organizations, Bombay Teen Challenge, whose mission is to prevent the human trafficking of young girls in India, and Bloom India, an organization he co-founded that provides high-quality education to underprivileged children in India to break the bondages of poverty, injustice, and social discrimination.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Dennis about how Comcast stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of giving back to the community.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about the economic impact Comcast has in our region.
DENNIS MATHEW: Comcast is very focused on giving back in the communities where we have customers and employees. Looking at our broader impact, over the last few years we’ve invested more than $1.6 billion in Connecticut, which includes capital expenditures to improve the network, employee wages, and charitable giving. We also invest with our community partners across the region. Community impact is near and dear to our hearts, especially in the space of digital equity and ensuring folks are connected to the internet.
NAN: How does Comcast provide solutions to digital equity?
DENNIS: Adoption of the internet was a huge focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, given how connectivity became so important. We’ve taken a three-pronged approach to addressing digital equity, which includes Internet Essentials, Comcast’s broadband adoption program that gives eligible individuals access to high-speed internet for $9.95 a month; our Internet Essentials Partnership Program, in which schools and towns help more students take advantage of discounted internet; and we recently started rolling out Comcast Lift Zones, where we work with our community partners to create safe centers where families can gain access to the internet and educational resources for free. Across Connecticut, we’re launching 25 Comcast Lift Zones.
We also have our Internet Essentials Partner Program in which schools and towns help more students take advantage of discounted internet. And we recently started rolling out Comcast Lift Zones, where we work with our community partners to create safe centers where families can gain access to the internet and educational resources for free. Across Connecticut, we’re launching 25 Comcast Lift Zones.
Being online and connected has become so critical, whether it’s enabling students to effectively learn or enabling folks to work or search for work. And then, of course, just being connected to family and friends. Unfortunately, we have large populations of folks who haven’t yet adopted broadband. Our programs are helping lower the barriers to help them sign up for broadband at home.
For example, every neighborhood in Hartford has access to broadband, but some aren’t adopting it due to economic barriers. So, programs like our Internet Essentials program create awareness about the low-cost access and help them get connected.
NAN: Comcast is involved with the community in many other ways, too.
DENNIS: Yes. Comcast is very committed to giving back to the community. We collaborate with organizations doing amazing work all across the region, including the Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, the Urban League, and local food banks. This past year, we’ve missed being physically at their centers, though we’ve continued to push our programs forward with virtual events and volunteer programs while we continue to provide funding.
We want to continue to be creative in this virtual space and we’re looking forward to getting back in person. Throughout the year, we have several events planned for our teammates to continue to be involved with our community partners.
NAN: In addition to giving back to the local community, tell us about your nonprofit, which helps communities in India.
DENNIS: My wife and I are passionate about giving back. In January 2020, we launched Bloom India, a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide high-quality education to underprivileged communities in India via traditional schools.
Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to gather students in classrooms, so we quickly pivoted to bridging the digital divide in India by thinking through creative solutions about how to provide tablets, PCs, and Wi-Fi hotspots so those folks wouldn’t miss out on months of learning—particularly because the underprivileged are disproportionately affected when they’re unable to continue to learn and be in class.
Also, during the pandemic, we’ve been supporting hospitals in increasing their COVID-19 capacity by helping them get ventilators and personal protective equipment.
NAN: As someone in a leadership position, any lessons learned in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic?
DENNIS: There have been so many challenges yet so many lessons learned. We had to transition hundreds of employees from offices to their homes in a matter of days, which, under normal circumstances, would have probably taken a year. Necessity is the mother of invention.
The first couple of months were interesting. Everybody was operating off of adrenaline and rolling up their sleeves to find a way to make this work. We did a lot of communicating and over-communicating to ensure people knew what was happening, why it was happening, and when it was happening. We didn’t want anyone to feel like they were on an island on their own.
That was one key lesson that we learned. I think we all know that communication is critical, but we needed to figure out how to communicate in an authentic way to get people the information they needed.
As we transitioned further into the pandemic, it was clear that, even with these broader communications, folks were feeling a bit disconnected from their teammates. They weren’t running into people grabbing a coffee or in the cafeteria.
As a leadership team, we had to get creative about facilitating those human connections and making sure we were taking care for our employees’ health and wellbeing. Mental health became a huge focus for all our leaders and driving authentic human connection has become a priority for us over these last few months.
NAN: Final question. What are the benefits of being a Strategic Partner with the MHA?
DENNIS: It comes down to having these types of conversations and being able to share best practices and talk about how we can partner together. Before the pandemic, we were major sponsors of various MHA events. We hope to continue to find opportunities to partner, provide support, and build on that relationship moving forward.
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