Sept. 13--Cable giant Comcast Corp. Tuesday expanded eligibility for its Internet Essentials service that makes broadband available to low-income families for $9.95 a month, which could nearly triple the 2,500 Colorado Springs-area families who participate in the 5-year-old program.
The change makes the service available to any family living in Comcast's service area to any family receiving assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, making nearly 4,800 households in El Paso County, 50,000 statewide and up to 2 million nationwide eligible for the service. The families cannot have been a Comcast Internet customer in the past 90 days or have an outstanding debt to the company that is less than a year old and previously were required to have a least one child receiving free or reduced-price school lunches.
"Between 28 percent and 30 percent of Americans don't have broadband service, and three-quarters of those don't have it because of financial or other related issues, not because the service isn't available," David Cohen, Comcast's senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Denver. He was in Denver to announce the expansion and a $100,000 grant to the Denver Housing Authority to upgrade technology equipment and other resources available in five Internet Essentials Tech Hubs in the authority's Opportunity Centers.
Comcast's Internet Essentials service includes download speeds of up to 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 1 megabit per second and requires no installation charge, activation fee and a free modem and wireless router. Participants also can buy an internet-ready computer for less than $150 and can get free "digital literacy" training in-person, online or through printed materials. For more information on the program, go to www.internetessentials.com or call 855-846-8376 or 855-765-6995 for Spanish speakers.
"We have been at Internet Essentials for five years and have hit 3 million people in 750,000 families. We have said all along we continue to make improvements, enhancements and adjustments. We have made more than 25 changes since the program started, including" pilot programs started about a year ago for low-income senior citizens in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Palm Beach County, Fla., and low-income students at community colleges in Colorado and Illinois, including Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs.
Comcast has spent more than $300 million on the program, including $1.8 million in grants for digital literacy training, public service announcements about the program valued at $110 million, 54,000 subsidized computers valued at more than $8 million and provided the service to more than 55,000 schools in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
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