Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is testing a new $10 per month broadband plan for low-income seniors that will provide broadband service, a free modem and a Wi-Fi router as well as access to digital literacy training materials. The service is being piloted in San Francisco and Palm Beach, Fla., and does not require a contract, installation fee or credit check.
The pilot program in San Francisco is offered in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, the City's SF Connected Senior's Digital Literacy training collaborative, and their three main nonprofit training partners: Self-Help for the Elderly, Community Technology Network and the Community Living Campaign.
Comcast launched a similar program, called Internet Essentials, in 2011 that was targeted at low-income families with at least one child enrolled in the free school lunch program. According to Comcast, more than 500,000 families, or about 2 million people, have signed up for that service.
And since Internet Essentials launched in 2011, Comcast said it has made several key enhancements including doubling the service's download speed to 10 Mbps downstream and providing the Wi-Fi router at no additional cost. Customers also can now connect more than one device to the Internet, potentially saving money on wireless bills.
But Comcast isn't alone in its efforts to offer inexpensive service to low income consumers. Earlier this year AT&T (NYSE: T) told the FCC that it was prepared to offer discounted broadband service to Americans who already qualified to receive government aid.
The company submitted the filing as part of its effort to get federal regulators to approve its $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV). In the filing, AT&T said it will create two new cheap Internet service plans for those eligible for the government's Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan: One would be a 5 Mbps service that would cost $10 a month for the first year, shooting up to $20 a month after 12 months; the other would be a 1.5 Mbps service that would cost $5 a month for the first year before going up to $10 a month thereafter. AT&T pledged to provide these offers for four years after it closed on the DirecTV deal.
Pew Research estimates that only 25 percent of seniors with household incomes below $30,000 per year have home broadband, compared with 82 percent of senior with household incomes at or above $75,000.
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