Comcast today announced several significant enhancements and milestones for Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program. The company said it plans to double the service’s download Internet speed, offer subscribers a Wi-Fi router for no additional cost, and conduct several pilot programs for low-income senior citizens. The announcements reaffirm Comcast’s commitment to help close the digital divide for low-income families and bring the transformative power of the Internet into more American homes.
Since the program’s inception, Comcast has made 25 key enhancements to Internet Essentials, and this is the third time in four years Comcast has increased speeds for customers. The current speed is doubling to up to 10 Mbps downstream, which is enough to power multiple devices simultaneously. In addition, by offering free Wi-Fi routers, customers will be able to connect any Internet-enabled device, including tablets and smartphones, which could help save money on monthly wireless bills.
"We have made significant progress toward closing the digital divide for low-income parents and children across the country. In less than four years, Internet Essentials has connected more than 500,000 families, or more than 2 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet at home," said David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. "With the increase in the program’s Internet speeds, the addition of Wi-Fi, and a streamlined auto-enrollment process, more families will have even easier access to the Internet and its life-changing resources for education, employment, healthcare, communication, and entertainment."
The pilot program for low-income seniors is designed to better understand the unique challenges of helping them cross the digital divide and learn how to use the Internet. According to Pew Research Center, just 47 percent, or less than half, of seniors (aged 65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. When it comes to income level, only 25 percent of seniors with household incomes below $30,000 have home broadband, compared to 82 percent of seniors with household incomes at or above $75,000.
The first pilot program will take place in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Cohen was joined by City of West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Palm Beach County School District Superintendent Robert Avossa, and Urban League of Palm Beach County President and CEO Patrick J. Franklin to make today’s announcements.
"Senior citizens can be an afterthought when it comes to addressing digital literacy and use of the Internet," said Franklin. "However, the Internet has a tremendous power to help change their lives for the better by tearing down the walls that geography may have put between them and the ones they love. It can also help restore a sense of community and inclusion, bonds that can weaken as we grow older."
To receive the faster Internet speed, customers simply need to reboot their cable modems. Existing customers who would like a Wi-Fi router just need to call the dedicated call center and either request to have one shipped to them for free, or they can schedule a professional installation, also for no additional cost. New customers will have the option to receive a Wi-Fi router when they sign up.
Internet Essentials Investments
Since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $240 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy training and education initiatives,reaching nearly 3.2 million people through national and local nonprofit community partners. Through the end of June 2015, Comcast has:
Dedicated more than $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of nonprofit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami, and Seattle, among others.
Provided more than 41,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
Distributed for free nearly 46 million Internet Essentials program materials.
Broadcast more than 7 million public service announcements, valued at more than $90 million.
Welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and its Online Learning Center.
Fielded more than 3.2 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
Made Internet Essentials available in nearly 48,000 schools and more than 5,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Partnered with 9,000 community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.
About Internet Essentials
Internet Essentials from Comcast is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program. It provides low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. Eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, charter, and homeschooled students. For more information, or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish speakers should call 1-855-765-6995.