On August 19, Comcast announced a pilot program to expand its Internet Essentials to low-income San Francisco seniors over 65. San Francisco is one of two counties involved in the pilot.
Pew Research Center reports that just 47 percent of seniors (aged 65 and older) have high-speed Internet at home. When we factor in household incomes below $30,000, only 25 percent of seniors have home broadband.
Community Technology Network is proud to be working with our SF Connected partners — the Community Living Campaign, Self-Help for the Elderly, and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Service — to help Comcast explore how Internet Essentials can best meet the needs of our low-income seniors.
A HISTORY OF HELPING LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS
Since 2011, Internet Essentials has brought wireless Internet into the homes of more than 500,000 low-income families who have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program. The program offered Internet service for $9.95 a month, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150, and access to free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person.
Comcast has made enhancements to Internet Essentials, including expanding eligibility, increasing its download speed to 10 mbps, and adding a free wireless router. Customers don’t have to sign a contract or pay an installation fee.
AN INCREASED NEED FOR CTN’S SERVICES
The expansion of Internet Essentials will increase the need for the digital literacy training offered by Community Technology Network and our SF Connected partners. Low-cost, high-speed home Internet will make computer use easier and more compelling for seniors, especially senior with limited mobility.
California’s Lifeline program provides low-income households with a free smartphone and reduced-cost phone service. Free smartphones, combined with the availability of other low-cost devices and affordable home Internet, will increase the Internet’s appeal and the need for the free skills training offered by CTN’s volunteers and staff.
Based upon the lessons learned from the pilot, we look forward to seeing Internet Essentials expanded to seniors nationally, as well as to people with disabilities and more of our low-income neighbors.
LOCAL OFFICIALS ACKNOWLEDGE COMCAST’S ACTION
A number of local officials attended the event, including San Francisco Supervisors Katy Tang, Julie Christensen, and Scott Weiner; California Assemblymember David Chiu; and Anne Hinton, Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Service.
Assemblymember David Chiu talked about San Francisco’s “very real digital divide” and encouraged the seniors in the audience to take advantage of computer literacy classes and learn to use the Internet to communicate with friends and family.