Comcast upgrades its Internet essentials plan – USA TODAY
Comcast is upgrading its Internet Essentials plan and setting aÂ new focus on getting senior citizens connected.
The pay-TV and Internet giant began the program in 2011 toÂ offer discounted Internet service and computers to low-income families. Since then, more than 500,000 families — or more than 2 million Americans — have gotten online through the program.
Comcast’sÂ Internet Essentials programÂ is currently available to families who have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, and homeschool students. Families get Internet service for $9.95 monthly and can purchase a Net-ready computer for less than $150.
The upgrades, announced by Comcast Corp. senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer David L. Cohen in a blog post on Comcast’s corporate web site, include increased download speedsÂ from 5 Megabits per second to 10 Mbps for no additional coast and a freeÂ Wi-Fi router.Â “Combined with our new speed increase, itÂ will now be easier for multiple familyÂ members to connect to the InternetÂ simultaneously,” Cohen said.
Comcast is also launching a pilot program to help low-income seniors understand and use the Net. Less than half of those aged 65-up (47%) have broadband at home, according to the Pew Research Center.
Cohen made the announcement in West Palm Beach, Fla., where the first pilot program will begin with the Urban League of Palm Beach. A number of additional pilot programs will be announced in the weeks ahead, Cohen said.
Current Internet Essentials customers who want a Wi-Fi router can call 1-855-846-8376. To get the faster Net downloads, customers need only reboot their cable modems.
The Internet Essentials program grew out Comcast’s acquisition ofÂ NBC Universal; the Net and cable provider agreed to increase broadband deployment to low-income homes for three years. Now, the company is carrying it on voluntarily. “Internet Essentials is truly born from Comcastâs late founder Ralph Robertsâs vision to invest in our communities, because when the communities we serve thrive, everyone benefits,” Cohen said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider