Comcast launched a cheap Internet broadband plan for low-income families several months ago, and now the cable provider is touting successes so far in a progress report.
The Internet Essentials program offers Internet access at just $10 per month, primarily to families with children already eligible for free lunches under the National School Lunch Program. (Although that criteria is about to be expanded too. See below.)
Thus far, Comcast has already signed up over 41,000 families (an estimated 160,000 people) nationwide to this plan -- sometimes bringing Internet access to homes for the very first time.
Other notable figures include that Comcast has distributed over 5,500 computers at less than $150 each, and offered roughly 300 in-person digital literacy training sessions with more than 1,250 individual attendees.
Comcast's executive vice president of public policy, David L. Cohen, explained in the report that just how necessary this program is for some Americans:
Research consistently shows that the barriers to broadband adoption involve a complex mix of low digital literacy, perceived lack of relevance of online content, and the need for low-cost, good quality computers and Internet service. Internet Essentials is intended to address all of these hurdles to broadband adoption and it's the largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program in the country.
Going forward, Cohen outlined six new goals, or "enhancements," that the program must now meet. Here's an overview:
- Expanded eligibility criteria from families with children eligible to receive free school lunches to families with children eligible to receive reduced price school lunches as well. (This actually bumps up the number of eligible households by nearly 300,000.)
- Doubling the broadband connection speed to up to 3Mbps downstream and up to 768 Kbps upstream
- Community-based organization partners will have the chance to purchase Internet Essentials in bulk to help reach more eligible households with a simpler and more customer-friendly process
- Working to streamline the approval process with an instant approval option for students who attend schools with the highest percentage of NSLP participation, including Provision 2 schools. (Should apply to 300,000 families)
- Improving online and in-person digital literacy training efforts
- Reducing computer costs and promote awareness of broadband adoption in conjunction with Connect to Compete initiative