by Larry Magid
Several years ago, Comcast launched a program called Internet Essentials where families with at least one child in a free school lunch program can get high-speed (10 mbps) Internet access for $9.95 a month along with a free modem and WiFi router and access to digital literacy training materials online, in print or in person. The service doesn’t require a contract and there is no installation fee or credit check.
More than 500,000 families, or about 2 million people, have signed up for the service according to Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L Cohen. In an interview, Cohen said that it is “multiple orders of magnitude larger in terms of success than everyone eysel combined,” when compared to other private sector initiatives.
Now Comcast is extending that program to senior citizens in two pilot areas, San Francisco and Palm Beach Florida. Cohen was at the Lady Shaw Senior Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Wednesday where he announced the program, joined by several elected officials from San Francisco.
Cohen quoted data from Pew Research Center that just 47 percent of seniors (65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. For seniors with household incomes below $30,000 it drops to 25% compared to 82% of seniors with household incomes at or above $75,000.
The pilot program in San Francisco is offered in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, the City’s SF Connected Senior’s Digital Literacy training collaborative, and their three main nonprofit training partners: Self-Help for the Elderly, Community Technology Network, and the Community Living Campaign.
Listen to Larry Magid’s interview with Comcast’s David L. Cohen (5 minutes)
Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that has received contributions from Comcast and other technology companies.