Comcast announced today it is expanding eligibility for Internet Essentials – the nation’s largest, most comprehensive and most successful broadband adoption program – to include all qualified low-income households in Tacoma. The expansion makes discounted internet services immediately available to nearly 30,000 households, positively impacting roughly 108,000 people throughout Tacoma. To-date, 52,000 people throughout Pierce County have benefited for the program, including 29,600 Tacoma residents. This latest expansion makes it widely available to as many people as possible in the city.
The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history, and the company estimates that more than three million additional low-income households are now eligible to apply nationwide. In Washington State, Comcast approximates the expansion increases the availability of Internet Essential to 208,000 totals households and 832,000 residents across the state altogether.
Since August 2011, Internet Essentials 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. This includes connecting more than 340,000 people and 85,000 households to fixed, high-speed internet in their home in Washington state. Today’s announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income military Veterans.
“We connect more people to high-speed broadband than any other provider in Washington,” said Terry Davis, Senior Director of Government Affairs & Internet Essentials Leader, Comcast Washington. “With this new expanded eligibility of Internet Essentials, we can now provide many more individuals and families in our service area with access to high-speed internet and other technology resources, regardless of their income.”
To be eligible to apply to the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more of a dozen different federal assistance programs. These include: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A full list of these programs can be found at www.internetessentials.com. 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.
“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 or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”
According to U.S. Census data, households living in cities with the highest poverty rates, are up to 10 times more likely than those in higher earning communities not to have fixed broadband at home. For example, in Palo Alto, Calif. or Bethesda, Md. – where poverty rates are very low – only about six percent of households do not have a broadband Internet subscription – 94 percent are connected. But in Trenton, NJ and Flint, Mich. – where poverty rates are way above the national average – up to 60 percent of households do not have fixed broadband at home – that is, less than half are connected. That gap of more than 50 points defines the digital divide in this country.
The most significant barrier to broadband adoption in low-income communities remains a basket of digital literacy deficits, lack of digital awareness, and fear of the Internet. As a result, since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $650 million to support digital literacy training and awareness, reaching more than 9.5 million low-income Americans. In addition, the company has either sold or donated more than 100,000 discounted and heavily subsidized computers to families and veterans that need one.
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. As a result, 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. For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1 (855) 846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1 (855) 765-6995.