Comcast Corp. has upgraded its Internet Essentials program, which has provided discounted broadband to 1 million low-income households with more than 4 million residents, according to the company. Upgrades include an increase in Comcast Internet Essentials speed and the addition of out-of-home Wi-Fi.

“When we started this program six years ago, we never imagined four million low-income Americans would benefit from it,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation in a press release.

Comcast Internet Essentials Speed
Comcast Internet Essential speed will now increase to 15 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream — up from from 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, the company said. This is the fourth time in six years that speeds have been upped, Comcast said.

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The company also is adding 40 hours of free out-of-home WiFi to Internet Essentials (free in-home WiFi already is offered).

Additionally, Comcast extended its pilot program for seniors from five metro areas to 12 and said six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be the national Internet Essentials spokesperson for the second consecutive year. Adamari López, host of Telemundo’s Un Nuevo Día, will be Internet Essentials’ first Hispanic spokesperson.

Internet Essentials costs $9.95 per month plus tax for qualifying households, with an Internet-ready computer available for $150. The program has three goals: to reduce digital literacy, improve access to computer equipment and increase affordability. It is a partnership between Comcast and thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials and community nonprofits, according to Comcast.

Bridging the digital divide has been one of the overriding issues facing telecom companies and legislators for decades. In July 2016 Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an agreement to make Internet Essentials available to HUD-assisted residents living in the MSO’s footprint. About 2 million homes were thought likely to be impacted. In February, Cox Communications and the American Library Association partnered to increase access to digital literacy training and resources in libraries and online.

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