Comcast has announced the third extension of steps it took to make connectivity more accessible to subscribers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The carrier said that until June 30, 2021 it will provide free Internet service for the first 60 days to new Internet Essential subscribers. In addition, the company will provide free access to more than 1.5 million public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots until that date.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly to ensure our network is operating at peak performance and help our customers and our communities navigate this unprecedented crisis,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said in a press release. “For nearly a decade, we’ve been on a mission to ensure students have the resources they need to be successful. We have accelerated that work during COVID-19 by partnering with public schools to provide Internet for more low-income students and by working with community centers to create safe spaces for families to connect to free WiFi through Lift Zones.”
In June, Comcast said it would continue to provide the free initial Internet Essentials service until the end of this year. The program was launched in 2011 and has connected about 8 million people in more than 2 million low income homes.
Last year, the company said that 90% of the subscribers to the program had not previously had an Internet connection. Comcast has additionally invested more than $650 million in digital skills training and provided 100,000 discounted and subsidized laptops during the life of the program. The threshold for qualifying for the program was lowered in August, 2019.
Many telecommunications companies have taken steps to help low income people deal with the crisis. For instance, in September, The EducationSuperHighway (ESH) and NCTA — the Internet & Television Association introduced the K-12 Bridge to Broadband, an initiative designed to boost home connectivity for students. It was built using the experiences of partnerships in Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Des Moines and elsewhere.