Since the launch of Internet Essentials a year ago, Comcast has helped close the digital divide for nearly 100,000 families, or 400,000 low-income citizens, by connecting them to the Internet.
Comcast’s David Cohen, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for public policy said in a blog post this morning that Comcast would further push the deployment of the Internet Essentials program in its second year.
“As we did last year, we are about to embark on an aggressive, multi-city tour to promote and publicize this program and talk about what we've learned and the enhancements we've made. And we won't stop here,” Cohen wrote. “We have a lot more work to do because the fact remains that far too many Americans, many from low-income families, are still not connected to the Internet and taking advantage of all that it has to offer.”
Comcast marked the one-year anniversary in a press conference today that featured Cohen and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Internet Essentials has been particularly effective in the Chicago area, with nearly 7,000 families signed up for the service. Across the region, which includes most of Illinois, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan, 15,000 families signed up.
Comcast launched Internet Essentials last year, but it was subsequently criticized by a few critics as being too difficult for some needy families to qualify for. In April, Comcast announced several enhancements to the service, including offering Internet Essentials to families that have children that receive reduced lunches at school instead of just to children who received free lunches.
Internet Essentials, which costs $10 a month, made its debut with a downstream speed of 1.5 Mbps, but the speed has been increased to up to 3 Mbps on the downstream and 768 kbps on the upstream.
Comcast also streamlined the application process by providing an instant approval process for all students attending schools with the highest percentage of NSLP participation, including Provision 2 schools.
Last month, Comcast announced an enhanced online Learning Center for Internet Essential users. The Learning Center, which is located on the Internet Essentials website, now includes a social media section, a refreshed design that features a guided tour for easier navigation and new digital literacy education videos.