Comcast today announced it plans to conduct a pilot program for low-income senior citizens in San Francisco as part of Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program for low-income Americans. Now entering its fifth year, Internet Essentials has connected more than 280,000 low-income Californians to online access at home, of which more than 90,000 live in the Greater Bay Area. California now ranks first in the nation for Internet Essentials adoption, with the program reaching more than 23 percent of its estimated eligible population.
Since 2011, Comcast has made more than 25 key enhancements to the program. Earlier this month, the Company announced it is doubling the service’s download Internet speed to up to 10 Mbps downstream and providing a Wi-Fi router for no additional cost. Customers will be able to power multiple devices simultaneously and connect any Internet-enabled device, which could help save money on wireless bills.
"We have made real and significant progress toward closing the digital divide for low-income parents and children across the country. In less than four years, Internet Essentials has connected more than 500,000 families, or more than 2 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet at home," said David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. "Now, with our low-income senior citizen pilot in San Francisco, we are opening up a second front in our attack on the digital divide so these seniors can get connected to the Internet in their homes and use it to communicate with friends and family, access healthcare and financial information, and enjoy online news and entertainment."
According to Pew Research Center, just 47 percent, or less than half, of seniors (aged 65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. When it comes to income level, only 25 percent of seniors with household incomes below $30,000 have home broadband, compared to 82 percent of seniors with household incomes at or above $75,000.
"Like every city across the country, San Francisco depends on the Internet to provide fundamental services to its residents, including information on governmental resources," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. "We have made great strides toward a larger vision of connectivity for our City as a whole to bridge the digital divide and ensure that our diverse communities have access to innovation, which include expanding free WiFi access to our public spaces including libraries and parks. Much more remains to be done, and I thank Comcast for partnering with the City to help us better connect our residents including offering affordable Internet access to our seniors by expanding the eligibility of its Internet Essentials program in San Francisco to include low-income seniors over 65, and also training our older adults on using and accessing technology so they learn skills necessary to succeed in the 21st Century."
The Internet Essentials pilot program for low-income senior citizens is designed to better understand the unique challenges of helping them cross the digital divide and learn how to use the Internet. It will be developed 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, in addition to other nonprofits. A separate pilot program was announced on August 4 for low-income seniors living in Palm Beach County, Florida.
"Many may not initially think of senior citizens when it comes to addressing high-speed Internet adoption and digital literacy," said Anni Chung, President and CEO, Self-Help for the Elderly. "However, the Internet has a tremendous power to improve their lives by better connecting them with loved ones and restoring a sense of community and inclusion to an often-isolated population."
Cohen was joined today by Katy Tang, San Francisco Supervisor; Julie Christensen, San Francisco Supervisor; California Assembly Member David Chiu, Anne Hinton, Executive Director, San Francisco City/County Department of Aging and Adult Services; Aaron Low, Program Manager, SF Connected; Anni Chung, President and CEO, Self-Help for the Elderly; Kami Griffiths, Executive Director, Community Technology Network; and Marie Jobling, Executive Director, Community Living Campaign.
To receive the faster Internet speed, current Internet Essentials customers simply need to reboot their cable modems. Existing customers who would like a Wi-Fi router just need to call the dedicated call center and either request to have one shipped to them for free, or they can schedule a professional installation, also for no additional cost. New customers will have the option to receive a Wi-Fi router when they sign up.
Internet Essentials Investments
Since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $240 million in cash and in-kind support to help fund digital literacy and education initiatives, reaching nearly 3.2 million people through national and local community partners. Through the end of June 2015, Comcast has:
Dedicated more than $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of nonprofit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami, and Seattle, among others.
Provided more than 41,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
Distributed for free nearly 46 million Internet Essentials program materials.
Broadcast more than 7 million public service announcements, valued at more than $90 million.
Welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and its Online Learning Center.
Fielded more than 3.2 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
Offered Internet Essentials to nearly 48,000 schools and 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.
About Internet Essentials
Internet Essentials from Comcast is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program. It provides low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. Eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, charter, and homeschooled students. For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376, or for Spanish, call 1-855-765-6995.