In South Florida today, Comcast announced the biggest expansion of its Internet Essentials program to date. All low-income households in the company’s service area are now eligible to participate in Internet Essentials, which is the nation’s largest, most successful and most comprehensive broadband adoption program.
David L. Cohen, Comcast Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal, made the announcement in Miami with CareerSource South Florida. In addition, Comcast announced it will provide a $25,000 grant to CareerSource South Florida for adaptive devices and digital skills training for people with disabilities.
“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 Cohen. “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 by 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 success in our modern, digital age.”
Following the announcement, Cohen surprised each of the more than 150 participants in CareerSource’s Tech Hire Summer Boot Camp and the Women in Tech cohort with a free laptop and six months of complimentary in-home Internet service from Internet Essentials.
“Internet access and digital literacy skills are already critical elements for the success of our local work force – and will only continue to grow in importance. We commend Comcast for its commitment to digital inclusion for all individuals and families in South Florida,” said Rick Beasley, Executive Director of CareerSource South Florida. “Our enhanced partnership will build on the success of the Internet Essentials program and allow us to make more meaningful strides towards closing the digital divide.”
The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history and the Company estimates that nearly three million additional low-income households are now eligible to apply. This number includes nearly 360,000 residents across the state of Florida, which is ranked second in the nation in terms of overall participation in the program.
The company also announced that since August 2011, it has connected more than eight million low-income individuals to the Internet at home, most for the very first time, including nearly 880,000 in the state of Florida. Today’s announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income veterans.
To be eligible to apply for the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different government 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 InternetEssentials.com.
Comcast 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.
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.