[dropcap]C[/dropcap]omcast is enhancing its Internet Essentials program, which provides low-cost high-speed Internet for low-income customers across the nation and in South Florida. The company said it plans to conduct a pilot program for low-income senior citizens in Palm Beach County, and is doubling the service’s download Internet speed and providing a Wi-Fi router for no additional cost.
Now entering its fifth year, Internet Essentials has connected more than 274,000 low-income Floridians to online access at home, of which more than 182,000 live in the South Florida area. David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer said that “In less than four years, Internet Essentials has connected more than 500,000 families, or more than 2 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet at home.”
Comcast said that the need for a program for senior citizens came about from working closely with community partners that serve this audience and the resulting feedback showing that the digital divide for the senior population is wide. According to Pew Research Center, just 47 percent, or less than half, of seniors (aged 65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. But when it comes to income level, only 25 percent of seniors with household incomes below $30,000 have home broadband, compared to 82 percent of seniors with household incomes at or above $75,000.
The Internet Essentials pilot program for senior citizens is designed to better tackle the unique challenges of helping low-income seniors cross the digital divide and learn how to use the Internet. The first senior pilot program will take place in Palm Beach County.
Comcast also announced it is doubling the speed for Internet Essentials to 10 Mbps downstream, which is enough to power multiple devices simultaneously. This is the third time in four years Comcast has increased speeds for customers. In addition, by offering Wi-Fi routers, customers will be able to connect any Internet-enabled device, such as a tablets or smartphone, which could help save money on monthly wireless bills.
To receive the faster Internet speed, customers simply need to reboot their cable modems. Existing customers who would like a Wi-Fi router just need to call the dedicated call center and either request to have one shipped to them for free, or they can schedule a professional installation, also for no additional cost. New customers will have the option to receive a Wi-Fi router when they sign up.
In just four years, Internet Essentials has reached nearly 25 percent of its estimated eligible population in the state of Florida, which is now ranked second in the nation for Internet Essentials adoption. Additionally, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County School Districts are all in the top ten best performing school districts in the country for leading the way in closing the digital divide with Internet Essentials. Miami-Dade has the highest penetration rate among the top 50 largest school districts in the country.
For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376, or for Spanish, call 1-855-765-6995.