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Comcast expands Internet Essentials program to public housing

David Cohen: "A cruel irony is at work, as the majority of low-income families, including those in public housing, who truly need the transformative power of…

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Developed by Comcast and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a new project seeks to improve internet access for public housing residents by expanding eligibility for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. 

Internet Essentials is Comcast’s high speed Internet adoption program that provides low cost high speed internet service as well as multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person.

The program will be extended to public housing residents in Miami-Dade County and the cities of Nashville, Philadelphia, and Seattle.  In the Philadelphia region, Comcast has connected more than 24,000 families through Internet Essentials.

“Internet access at home is essential to succeed in today’s digital world on all fronts, from employment to education.  Unfortunately, a cruel irony is at work, as the majority of low-income families, including those in public housing, who truly need the transformative power of the Internet are not connected,” Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen said in a statement. “Comcast’s collaboration with ConnectHome will not only build a bridge for those living in public housing to cross the digital divide, but the Internet also gives them a ladder to educational and vocational resources that can improve the quality of their lives and help them claim their American dream.”

Cohen and HUD Secretary Julián Castro made today’s announcements alongside Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado at Rainbow Village, a public housing development in Miami, Florida.

Launched in July 2015, Comcast is the first new Internet service provider to join HUD’s ConnectHome initiative. While the 28 ConnectHome communities will remain as part of the initial pilot, additional communities like Miami-Dade are part of ConnectHome’s larger vision to close the digital divide and bring broadband access to every public housing resident in the nation.

This is the eighth time in five years Comcast has expanded eligibility for Internet Essentials. In less than five years, Internet Essentials has connected more than 600,000 low-income families to the internet, which is approximately 2.4 million Americans.

“ConnectHome is expanding opportunity for the next generation, preparing them for success in the 21st century,” Castro said.  “We’re thankful to have Comcast join the ConnectHome initiative and our continued efforts to close the digital divide.  Through their commitment and all of our great stakeholders, public and private, we’re leveling the playing field for public housing residents across the nation and opening doors to prosperity that otherwise would remain closed.”

At the event, Comcast technicians were on hand to install Internet service on the spot and will provide a free laptop computer and six months’ worth of complimentary internet service to every Rainbow Village household. 

The company also donated 15 new computers to the Rainbow Village computer lab, where digital literacy training sessions take place after school and where students can do homework and adults can get online.

Originally, Internet Essentials was offered to families with children eligible to receive a free school lunch from the National School Lunch Program. It was first expanded to children also eligible for the reduced price school lunch program.  

Comcast then expanded eligibility to include families with children in parochial, private, charter, and cyber schools, as well as students who are homeschooled.  Last year, Comcast extended the program two more times, on a pilot basis, to low-income seniors and low-income community college students. 

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