Comcast Expands ‘Internet Essentials’ to More Public Housing

Comcast said it has teamed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) ConnectHome initiative on a pilot that will extend the MSO’s Internet Essentials program to public housing residents in Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Internet Essentials, a voluntary commitment linked to Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal and originally designed for low-income families, provides high-speed Internet service (up to 10 Mbps downstream)  to those who qualify for $9.95 per month, plus computer equipment (less than $150) and free Internet training.

Comcast said Internet Essentials now connects more than 600,000 low-income families and that 2015 was the program’s most successful year amid a 30% increase in enrolments over 2014.

The Obama Administration has been focused on driving broadband deployment and adoption, including through Universal Service Fund subsidies to schools, libraries and low-income residents, the last of which will soon be getting $9.25 to apply to stand-alone broadband in a new FCC reform of Lifeline advanced telecom subsidies but only at speeds of at least 10 Mbps.

The Comcast program began as a way to help low-income families with school-age kids connect but has expanded eligibility for the program eight times in five years, Comcast said, including to low-income seniors, on a pilot basis, and to college students in Colorado and Illinois.

Internet Essentials provides Internet download speeds up to 10 Mbps, a free Wi-Fi router, free training, and a computer for purchase at less than $150.

“Internet access at home is essential to succeed in today’s digital world on all fronts, from employment to education.  Unfortunately, a cruel irony is at work, as the majority of low-income families, including those in public housing, who truly need the transformative power of the Internet are not connected,” said senior executive VP and chief diversity officer David Cohen in announcing the partnership. “Comcast’s collaboration with ConnectHome will not only build a bridge for those living in public housing to cross the digital divide, but the Internet also gives them a ladder to educational and vocational resources that can improve the quality."

Jeff Baumgartner contributed to this report.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.