(Photo by Flickr user Paul Sableman, used under a Creative Commons license)
Philadelphia Housing Authority residents are now eligible for Comcast’s subsidized internet program, Internet Essentials.
Previously, the program was open to households with children that qualify for free or reduced lunch (and that do not have any late bills). This will open it up to those without children — something advocates fought for, and won, during the city’s franchise negotiation with Comcast last year.
There are more than 5,000 PHA residences, said Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Bilotta, though Comcast did not have a number on how many of those addresses were already eligible.
The expansion is part of a federal program to close the digital divide and Comcast is piloting it in Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami and Nashville. It’s Comcast making good on its promise, as per the city’s new franchise agreement, to pilot any Internet Essentials expansions in Philadelphia. (This was a point of contention during the franchise agreement negotiations because Comcast piloted a senior citizen expansion in Florida and not Philadelphia.) Note that the City of Seattle, which used Philadelphia’s franchise agreement as leverage to get a better deal, is also included.
The news comes as the City of Philadelphia and Comcast are working out an expanded Internet Essentials program under the city’s new franchise agreement. The expanded program, which will include senior citizens and low-income Philadelphians without children, will launch mid-May, Bilotta said.
2015 was Internet Essentials’ biggest year yet, with a 30 percent increase in sign-ups from 2014. Six hundred thousand households are now using the service nationally, according to a press release. Locally, 24,000 families have signed up for the service, up from 15,000 this time last year, Bilotta said.