August 8, 2019
Comcast has expanded its Internet Essentials program to make inexpensive broadband Internet available to any eligible low-income customer. Currently, according to U.S. Census data, in cities with the highest poverty rates, households are ten times more likely not to have broadband compared to households in wealthier cities. With Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest cable provider will help close the so-called digital divide, offering 15Mbps download speeds for $9.95 per month, which is $40 less than its typical service.
Digital Trends reports that Internet Essentials customers “also pay no installation fees, and no contracts or credit checks are required for service.” The only requirement is that the applicant not have “any outstanding debt less than a year old owed to Comcast, and not have had service with the provider within the past six months.”
Previously, to qualify for Internet Essentials, eligibility was extended to those with children in the National School Lunch Program, community college students in Colorado or Illinois and “low-income veterans, seniors, and HUD housing recipients.”
With the expanded program, “customers can also prove eligibility by providing proof of benefits from nearly a dozen other federal programs, including Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and others … [which] should cover just about every low-income household where Comcast offers service.”
“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said Comcast NBCUniversal chief diversity officer David Cohen.
Introduced in 2012, Internet Essentials has grown from 340,000 customers to “approximately eight million individuals across two million households this year.” Comcast stated that “some three million additional low-income households in its service area are now eligible.”
The cable provider “also will continue to offer customers the choice of purchasing a refurbished Windows 10 laptop or desktop system with Microsoft Office and Norton Security Suite installed for just $150.” So far, said Comcast, it has “either sold or donated 100,000 of these computers to needy customers.”
The impetus to make broadband widely available comes from the White House; in 2015 President Barack Obama said, “the Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” and the Trump Administration has cut back on “the paperwork requirements to build out broadband networks in rural areas.”