BY TIM ESTILOZ
Comcast has announced a new massive expansion to it’s acclaimed Internet Essentials program designed to enable millions of low-income families to become connected to the internet; opening up greater opportunities for education and employment.
The federal ConnectHome pilot initiative has allowed Internet service providers, non-profits, and the private sector to offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation.
As of July 15, Comcast, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will expand it’s related Internet Essentials program throughout the nation to up to 2-million eligible low income public housing households providing hi-speed internet service for under $10 per month including a complimentary Wi-Fi router, an opportunity to buy an internet ready computer for under $150 and free access to a host of training resources to promote digital literacy.
HUD Secretary Castro and Comcast Senior Executive VP and Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen said during a press conference call that such a program is crucial for young people whose families might not otherwise be able to afford such important Internet accessibility.
“At a time when 90-percent of college applications are submitted online, less than half of the poorest households in America have an Internet subscription at home”, said Secretary Castro. “That basically means roughly 11-million families face significant barriers when it comes to achieving their dreams. We want to provide every American a clear shot at achieving a brighter future.”
Castro stated that children are increasingly being called upon to use the Internet for their school homework and other educational needs. Additionally, adults in the households need to go online to pay their bills, seek job opportunities and to sign their families up for quality health insurance.
According to Comcast’s David Cohen, the expanded Internet Essentials program, which was launched in 2011, will directly address the so-called “Digital Divide” that prevents low income families affordable access to the internet and climbing up the economic ladder.
Cohen said the Internet Essentials program will extend eligibility to those families living in HUD funded public housing including those using housing choice vouchers and project-based Section 8 housing regardless of whether the family has a child eligible for the National School Lunch Program or not. Veterans and seniors living in HUD assisted housing will also be eligible.
Massachusetts is among the top five states that will benefit most from this program, according to Cohen. Families interested in applying for this program can contact the Internet Essentials hotline in Spanish at (855) 765-6995 or (855) 846-8376 for English or online via www.InternetEssentials.com.