Comcast has announced that it plans to commit $1 billion dollars to its low-income Internet-Essentials program. This plan will be spread across ten years and includes investments in community Wi-Fi centers, donating laptops and computers to low-income families, grants for nonprofits, and expanding their Internet Essentials program. According to the article, "Nationally, Comcast said Internet Essentials has connected 10 million people to broadband internet. More than 520,000 Philadelphia residents and 840,000 people in the region have used Internet Essentials. More than 9,000 of those local customers are part of PHLConnectED, a program for low-income families of students in the city’s school district to receive free internet services." (Rose, 2021).
By the end of 2021, Comcast plans to have opened 1,000 public Wi-Fi centers dubbed "Lift Zones."
The Internet Essentials Program offers broadband connections to primarily low-income families who qualify for federal public assistance. Comcast has also frequently offered the first two weeks of the program, normally $9.95 a month, for free to customers who sign up.
From an energy rights perspective the very name of the program calls back to what our group has found in our surveys. Many people consider energies, including the internet, "essential" for everyday life, but many also state that they are only rights if you pay for them. Comcast's Internet Essentials, by admission of its name, offers an essential service for a price. This discourse of "it is a right, but you have to pay for it" deserves further analysis.
Also, these Lift Zones are public centers, meaning that Comcast only must provide one router for the area. Despite being free, they still require people to take public transit, and capacity is limited. There may be some pushback against Comcast putting money into these Lift Zones instead of providing internet for free to those in their own homes, especially during a pandemic.
Kennedy Rose, 24 March 2021, "Comcast commits $1B to low-income Internet Essentials program", contributed by Andrew Rosenthal, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 1 May 2021, accessed 1 March 2024. https://energyrights.info/content/comcast-commits-1b-low-income-internet-essentials-program