Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) announced it is expanding eligibility for its Internet Essentials broadband adoption program to include all qualified low-income households in its service area. The company estimates that nearly 3 million additional low-income households, including households with people with disabilities, are now eligible to apply. In addition, the company announced that, since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 8 million low-income individuals, from 2 million households, to the Internet at home, most for the first time. The announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year's extension of the program to low-income veterans.
"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 be connected in our modern, digital age."
To be eligible to apply to the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different federal assistance programs. These include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), among others. The company already accepts applications from households that have a student eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, live in public housing or receive HUD Housing Assistance, including Section 8 vouchers, or participate in the Veterans Pension Program, as well as low-income seniors and community college students in select pilot markets.
"Having an Internet connection at home is absolutely vital for low-income people living with disabilities," said Carol Salter, president of Easter Seals of Oregon. "I commend Comcast for extending its Internet Essentials program because it will help us advance our mission to assist individuals with disabilities, veterans, seniors and their families, particularly in updating their technology skills and finding career opportunities."
Internet Essentials 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 Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.