Comcast also doubles Internet speed and offers Wi-Fi at no additional cost
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 conduct a pilot program for low-income senior citizens in Palm Beach County, and is doubling the service’s download Internet speed and providing a Wi-Fi router for no additional cost.
Now entering its fifth year, Internet Essentials has connected more than 275,000 low-income Floridians to online access at home, of which more than 182,000 live in the South Florida area. However disparities in Internet connectivity rates continue to persist and for the senior population the digital divide is wide. According to Pew Research Center, just 47 percent, or less than half, of seniors (aged 65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. But 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.
“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 and the addition of Wi-Fi, these families will have even easier access to the Internet and its life-changing resources for education, employment, healthcare, communication, and entertainment.”
The Internet Essentials pilot program for senior citizens is designed to better tackle the unique challenges of helping low-income seniors cross the digital divide and learn how to use the Internet. The first senior pilot program will take place in Palm Beach County, where Cohen was joined by City of West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Palm Beach County School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa, and Urban League of Palm Beach County President and CEO Patrick J. Franklin to make the 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.”
Comcast also announced it is doubling the speed for Internet Essentials to 10 Mbps downstream, which is enough to power multiple devices simultaneously. This is the third time in four years Comcast has increased speeds for customers. In addition, by offering Wi-Fi routers, customers will be able to connect any Internet-enabled device, such as a tablets or smartphone, which could help save money on monthly wireless bills.
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
In 2014, Comcast launched four new Internet Essentials Digital Learning Zones in South Florida at ASPIRA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, Chapman Partnership and Overtown Youth Center (OYC), which provide additional opportunities for low-income students and families to access the Internet and receive digital literacy training. Comcast aims to help complete the continuum of connectivity, in which students spend the school day in wired classroom, stay connected after school in Internet Essentials Learning Zones and end their days connected at home, where families have online access through the Internet Essentials program. Comcast has dedicated $1 million in grants to create these zones across the country.
Through a partnership with The Urban League of Palm Beach County, Comcast offers a Digital Connectors Program that provides digital literacy training for students in Palm Beach County. Almost 60 low-income local youth have graduated from the program, which was launched in 2007.
Through Internet Essentials, Comcast has invested more than $240 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy and readiness training and education, reaching nearly 3.2 million people through national and local non-profit community partners. Through the end of June 2015, Comcast has:
- 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.
- Offered Internet Essentials to nearly 48,000 schools and 5,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- Partnered with thousands of community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.