Comcast's negotiated Internet Essentials expansion now includes low-income seniors - Technical.ly Philly

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Comcast’s negotiated Internet Essentials expansion now includes low-income seniors

Discounted internet access for low-income populations was a key sticking point during the Comcast franchise negotiations last fall.

Seniors will now have a access to Comcast's Internet Essential program.

(Courtesy photo)

Full disclosure: Comcast was the title sponsor of Philly Tech Week 2016, which is organized by Technical.ly.

Since 2011, when Comcast Internet Essentials was launched in Philadelphia, 24,000 low-income families have had access to basic broadband connections. On Thursday, Comcast announced the target of the most recent expansion of the program: low-income senior citizens.

A pilot initiative, developed with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, will aim to reach city seniors. According to national Pew Research Center data, only 25 percent of seniors who make under $30,000 have home broadband access, versus 82 percent of seniors earning $75,000 or more.

“When seniors are on the wrong side of the digital divide, it can be isolating,” Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen said in a statement. “We’re excited to bring the power of the Internet to seniors in our hometown, so they can stay in touch with family and friends, access healthcare and financial resources, and enjoy online news and entertainment.”

The project’s latest update has its roots in the pioneering franchise agreement the City of Philadelphia negotiated with Comcast last fall. As we reported back in December, activists lobbied for further inclusion and expansion of low-cost internet access initiatives.

Two key expansions in the city were also announced:

  • The Low-Income Broadband Access Program will allow low-income Philadelphians without school-age children and not of senior age to access a Comcast and community-subsidized program administered by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern NJ for low-cost internet access.
  • A city-subsidized fund will let citizens enroll in the program if they are otherwise eligible for any of the Internet Essentials programs but have subscribed to Comcast Internet Service within the previous 90 days.

The latter was also a key topic of discussion during the franchise agreement negotiations last December. As the hearings at City Council were being held, organizations like the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) led protests and petitions to demand more community engagement from the Philly-based company.

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MMP Policy Director Hannah Sassaman said in reaction to the program’s expansion that the organization was excited for the increased access citizens will have to affordable internet access.

“But they don’t go far enough,” Sassaman said.

“We’ll be pushing Comcast and the City to continue to expand options for affordable internet, building on these programs, and on their support for digital inclusion training through new funds like the Digital Inclusion Fund, which City Council and the Administration also secured alongside the franchise agreement,” she said.

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