Comcast, the nation’s largest broadband internet service provider, is aiming to get more disabled Americans online with an expansion of its low-cost Internet Essentials program. The service offers 15mbps internet at only $9.95 a month plus tax, the option to purchase a discounted laptop or desktop computer for $150 and access to a free learning center that provides digital literacy training in print, online or in person.
“The internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource. Whether the internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age,” said David L. Cohen, the senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer for Comcast NBCUniversal, in a press release announcing the expansion.
A 2017 report by the Pew Research center found that disabled adults are about 20 percent less likely to subscribe to home broadband internet and own a computer, smart phone or tablet, when compared with nondisabled adults. Pew conducted a 2016 survey that also found 23% of disabled Americans say they never go online, compared to only 8% of those without a disability. With the poverty rate for disabled Americans double that of the nondisabled rate and average broadband internet prices at around $66 a month, lack of access to affordable internet options has helped drive this digital divide.
While the 15mbps speed offered by the Internet Essentials program is below the FCC’s 25mbps minimum for broadband designation, it should still be enough to perform most needed activities, including streaming HD video, provided there aren’t too many simultaneous connections.
Individuals who are eligible for a number of public assistance programs, including Medicaid, SSI and VA Pensions, among others, may apply for the Internet Essentials program at internetessentials.com.