Expanding efforts to bring internet access within reach of residents for whom it has been traditionally out of reach, Comcast is extending eligibility for its Internet Essentials program, to include all qualified low-income households, including households with people with disabilities, in its service area. Nearly 191,000 households in Connecticut will now become eligible, among an estimated nearly three million nationwide, according to the company.
Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the internet, the lack of a computer, and cost.
Responding to the findings, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners across the country.
Connecticut’s geography is divided into 25 regions for video services. According to the state Public Utilities Control Authority, Comcast operates 14 of them, including in the Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, Danbury, Middletown, and shoreline regions.
Comcast is one of the United States’ largest video, high-speed internet, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses. As of last year, Comcast had 22.5 million TV subscribers and 25.1 million broadband subscribers nationwide.
The expansion of the broadband access program is described as the most significant change in the program’s 8-year history. Since August 2011, the program has connected more than eight million low-income individuals, from two million households, to the Internet at home, most for the first time in their lives, including nearly 92,000 Connecticut residents, according to company officials.
“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 David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal.
“The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource. Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits, it is absolutely essential to success in our modern, digital age.”
There have been 11 previous eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income veterans, the company said. To be eligible to apply to the program, low-income applicants need to demonstrate that they are participating in one of more than a dozen different federal assistance programs. A full list can be found at www.internetessentials.com or by calling 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.
“Access to the Internet at home is becoming a necessity as everything from homework to job applications to accessing community resources is being done on line,” said Paula S. Gilberto, president and CEO of United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. “By expanding eligibility of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, more lower wage earners in our region will be able to access this valuable resource in the safety and comfort of their own home.”