If there’s one complaint we hear most often here at CheapInternet.com, it is that none of the low-income Internet plans are available to families without children. Well, Comcast and its Internet Essentials program has taken a big step toward solving that problem.
Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (otherwise known as HUD) just announced a major expansion of the Internet Essentials program. Now adults living in HUD-assisted housing can get $10 per month high-speed Internet even if they have no children.
When we say this is a big expansion, it’s no exaggeration. As the highly-respected ArsTechnica.com said, “Up to 2 million HUD-assisted homes are now eligible for Internet Essentials; as 35 percent have children and were thus already eligible, the expansion adds another 1.3 million households.”
As we’ve noted here before, Comcast has been conducting a pilot program in which some low-income seniors and community college students were given access to the Internet Essentials program. What’s not clear is if this expansion is the result of those pilot programs or if those pilot programs have been concluded and additional expansions of Internet Essentials will include senior and college students who do not live in HUD-assisted housing projects. (Our fervent hope is that they will soon be included.) Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign for seniors and students because this is the first time Internet Essentials will be available to adults without children.
Before you get too excited, please remember that this expansion will not be nationwide. Internet Essentials is only available in the 21 states, so it will be available only to HUD-assisted residents of those states. (You can see a complete list of states and cities covered by Comcast here.)
Another thing to keep in mind is that you will still need to meet a few eligibility requirements in order to qualify.
For example, Comcast customers with unpaid bills will NOT be eligible if their unpaid bill is less than one year old. In addition, you cannot enroll for Internet Essentials if you have subscribed to any paid Comcast Internet plans within the last three months. (This is a real sticking point for many of our readers who complain that it gives them the difficult choice of continuing to pay high rates on Comcast’s regular Internet plans or going without Internet for 90 days. It’s an unfortunate Catch-22 situation and we sincerely hope Comcast works out a compromise that solves the problem for its neediest customers.)
Comcast is the nation’s largest internet service provider and its reach and scope is staggering. Here’s a chart that shows you which cities and which states will be most impacted by this expansion into HUD-assisted families without children:
Many customers and advocates for America’s neediest citizens criticize Comcast for not doing enough for low-income Americans, and although we’ve taken a shot or two at Comcast over the years, we are also quick to pat Comcast on the back for its accomplishments. For example, a joint press release from HUD and Comcast called out some landmark achievements for Internet Essentials:
From August 2011 through December 2015, Internet Essentials has connected more than 600,000 low-income families, benefitting more than 2.4 million Americans, to the internet at home. Also since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $280 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy training and education initiatives,reaching nearly 4.4 million people through national and local nonprofit community partners.
- Provided more than 47,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
- Distributed for free nearly 51 million Internet Essentials program materials.
- Broadcast more than 8.3 million public service announcements, valued at more than $100 million.
- Welcomed 5 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and its Online Learning Center.
- Fielded more than 3.9 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
- Made Internet Essentials available in nearly 48,000 schools in more than 5,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- Partnered with 9,000 community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state, and local elected officials to spread the word.
In addition, Comcast has continually grown the number of students eligible for Internet Essentials. It has expanded the number of schools in which every student is eligible for the program so long as a certain percentage of the kids in that school are NSLP [National School Lunch Program] eligible. In the early days of Internet Essentials, it required that 70% be eligible. That has been reduced to 50% some time ago, and it has now been reduced to just 40%. There’s no denying that that is an impressive track record. So impressive, in fact, that Comcast believes about half of the 48,000 schools across its service area now qualify for automatic enrollment.
This will do so much to help so many needy Americans. And on their behalf, we say, “Thanks, Comcast.”