Action United, an activist group of low- and moderate-income residents, says Comcast’s discounted Internet program for poor children (launched this spring) needs to be improved and more heavily advertised. The program, “Internet Essentials,” provides provide low-cost access to the Internet and affordable computers as well as digital literacy training to families with children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program.
Internet service provided through Internet Essentials features download speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 384 Kbps. Upon enrollment, new customers have the opportunity to buy a netbook-style laptop for $149.99.
However, based on an informal survey of 107 families, Action United told The Philadelphia Enquirer that 62% of respondents had not heard of Comcast’s $9.95-a-month service, while almost 75% of the respondents said they would have considered applying for it if they had been aware of it.
Comcast sppokesperson John Demming tells RBR-TVBR: “The goal of Internet Essentials is to get more Americans online and help close the digital divide. Comcast is proud of its groundbreaking program to help close the broadband adoption gap and is particularly pleased that the rest of the cable industry has committed to participate in a similar program developed by the FCC. In Philadelphia, approximately 150,000 low-income students are eligible to participate in this program. Comcast is partnering with scores of organizations to raise awareness, level the playing field and get those students and their families connected.”
He also says they are partnering with the school districts directly in raising awareness and running PSAs nationwide: “We’re trying to get the word out as much as possible about the availability of the program. In Philadelphia, we’re doing a PSA with the mayor.”
Internet Essentials was instituted, in part, as a result of the Comcast-NBCU merger, in where the communications giant agreed to increase broadband deployment in low income households as one of a number of conditions of the deal.
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s great that Comcast is offering up the program, but asking the company to spend ad dollars on a non-revenue producing sector of its business might be a bit much. Certainly, the school systems in the Philly area should step up to the plate a bit more on the awareness for their students in Comcast-served districts.