Timed with the back-to-school season, Comcast said Wednesday that Internet Essentials, the operator’s service for low-income families, now connects 750,000 families or about 3 million Americans.
Internet Essentials, originally a voluntary commitment linked to Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal and now entering its sixth year, provides high-speed Internet service (up to 10 Mbps downstream) to those who qualify for $9.95 per month, plus subsidized computer equipment (less than $150 each) and free Internet training.
In July, Comcast inked a partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative to expand Internet Essentials to about 2 million HUD-assisted homes within the MSO’s service territory. HUD says those homes account for about 40% of all its households.
David Cohen, SVP and chief diversity officer at Comcast, and Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the new national spokesperson for Internet Essentials, announced the milestone Wednesday as they kicked off a multi-city tour that, over the next six weeks, will make stops in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia, where it will also announce more than $2 million in grants to community organizations that provide digital literacy training and Internet access.
Comcast said it has invested more than $300 million in cash and in-kind support since the 2011 launch of Internet Essentials, including the broadcast of 8.5 million public service announcements, valued at nearly $110 million. It also estimates that it has distributed 54,000 subsidized computers and teamed with more than 9,000 community partners such as schools, school districts, elected officials, and businesses.
“In the last five years, we’ve learned that no single company or government program is ever going to fix the digital divide and that solving a big, difficult societal issue like this takes nothing short of a movement,” Cohen said in a statement. “We are so proud that thousands of community partners around the country have helped us make a meaningful dent in the digital divide. With the recent announcement of our expansion to HUD-assisted homes, we look forward to bringing this essential connection to even more families over the next five years. There is still more good work to do.”
“I’ve dedicated my life to inspiring young people to have the confidence to succeed in both academics and athletics,” added Joyner-Kersee. “At my foundation’s community center in East St. Louis, I’ve seen first-hand the kids who grow up without internet service at home and the impact it has on their futures. I’m proud to represent Internet Essentials and help close the digital divide, so every child can have the chance to develop to their fullest potential and reach their dreams.”