Comcast, HUD announce major expansion of Internet Essentials

Comcast has taken an historic step towards closing the nation’s digital divide. The global and media giant recently announced that public housing and HUD-assisted residents living in Comcast’s service area are eligible to apply for Internet Essentials. Comcast estimated that up to 2 million HUD-assisted homes, will now have access to low-cost Internet service.

(Courtesy Photo/Comcast)

“This announcement reaffirms Comcast’s determination to make a meaningful impact to close the digital divide for low-income families in this country,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast. “This is the single largest expansion of the Internet Essentials program in its history, and we’re thrilled to be working with HUD to help connect even more families, including seniors, veterans, and adults without children, to the transformative power of having internet service at home.”

Comcast’s announcement came on Thursday, July 14, 2016 following a three-month pilot program in four locations— Miami-Dade County, Nashville, Philadelphia and Seattle— where residents of public housing units were eligible to apply for Internet Essentials.

According to Comcast, the extension means all households that receive HUD housing assistance in Comcast’s service area, whether seniors, single adults, veterans, and married couples without children, can apply for low-cost Internet and ultimately help better their lives.

“The national expansion to HUD-assisted resident’s announcement marks the ninth time in five years Comcast has expanded eligibility for the program, and underscores the company’s commitment to attacking the digital divide,” said Cohen. “We have made many enhancements, but never a more sweeping change than this one. Previously, a family with a child who received free or reduced price lunches was eligible. Now, any resident of public housing or who receives public housing assistance is eligible regardless of whether they have child in the school lunch program or not.”

Cohen stressed that the expansion seeks to provide a meaningful contribution to closing the digital divide for low-income Americans so they can improve the quality of their lives, get a GED credential, take online classes, search and apply for jobs, and learn to be digitally literate so they are more marketable for 21st century, higher paying, digital jobs.

“ConnectHome is opening doors of opportunity for our next generation of Americans,” said HUD Secretary, Julián Castro. “Today’s announcement has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids across the nation by giving them the tools to reach their full potential. We’re grateful to Comcast for joining the ConnectHome initiative, which has extended its reach to more than 1.5 million children in one short year.”

Internet Essentials is Comcast’s acclaimed, high-speed Internet adoption program for low-income families. From August 2011 through December 2015, the program has connected more than 600,000 low-income families, benefiting more than 2.4 million Americans, to the Internet at home.

ConnectHome is an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet Service Providers, non-profits, and the private sector are offering broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation.

Maryland ranks eighth in the top 10 states with the largest number of HUD-assisted households in Comcast’s service area.

According to Comcast, between 2009 and 2014, broadband service providers spent over $422 billion on capital investments, and three in four American households now use broadband at home. However, Comcast also notes that despite significant progress, one in four American households still don’t access the Internet at home, particularly lower-income families with children.

“If we want to provide every American with a fair shot at building a brighter future, we need to find solutions for closing our nation’s digital divide,” said Castro. “We can look to the story of the Martinez family from Chicago. Internet Essentials gave their oldest son Jonathan the tools that he needed to graduate as a Salutatorian of his high school class, and then to become the first person in his family to attend college.”

He added, “In fact, the Martinez family has credited the Internet Essentials program with giving their family an affordable way to stay online, even when they went through some financial tough times. Their story proves that expanding Internet adoption is about much more than modems and megabits per second. It’s about giving the Martinez kids and young people like them across the nation the chance they deserve to reach their full potential. I thank Comcast for its outstanding commitment. HUD is proud to join Comcast in this vital mission, which helps to make America the undisputed land of opportunity.”

For more information about the program or to apply, visit: www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish speakers should call 1-855-765-6995.