In the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In other words, it’s a beginning. Low-income senior citizens who live in 28 HUD-assisted housing communities across the country now qualify for low-income Internet, but we hope for much more in the future.
But let’s not downplay the news too much because this really is a great first step.
Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had been testing a low-income program for low-income seniors in Boston, Palm Beach County, FL, San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia. Now they’re making high-speed Internet access available in public and HUD-assisted housing in 28 communities across the country.
That means older adults in all of Comcast’s markets can now apply for the company’s Internet Essentials program to obtain internet access for $9.95 per month. It’s also offering technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for senior citizens in those communities.
Of course, Comcast can only offer this new low-cost Internet plan for seniors in areas where it does business. The ten largest cities with HUD-assisted housing in Comcast’s service area are Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Houston, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.” Beyond those ten cities, Comcast offers service in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
The program will reach more than 40% of all HUD-assisted households across the country.
“This is the single largest expansion of the Internet Essentials program in its history,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast, “and we’re thrilled to be working with HUD to help connect even more families, including seniors, veterans and adults without children, to the transformative power of having internet service at home.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Approximately 4.8 million households in the United States receive housing assistance through programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development … Nearly a third (30%) of public housing residents are elderly…”
That’s why we started off by calling this the first step of a thousand mile journey. Comcast is covering 40% of the nation’s low-income seniors, but what about the missing 60%. And what about the millions of low-income seniors who don’t live in HUD-assisted housing?
Now it’s time for all the other low-income Internet service providers — Access from AT&T, CenturyLink’s Internet Basics, Cox Cable, Eagle Communications, MediaCom, Midco, SuddenLink, etc — to jump on the bandwagon and begin to offer a similar program in their respective coverage areas.
Let’s complete this thousand mile journey.