(Photo courtesy of Flickr user when I was a bird, used via a Creative Commons license)
Generocity is one of 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice.
Editor’s note: The full content of this article was written by Billy Penn reporter Michaela Winberg. This portion appears here as part of the Broke in Philly reporting series.
Last year, the United Nations declared the internet a basic human right. Internet is also basically a requirement to participate in modern society. But for many Philadelphians, it’s just not affordable — getting internet at home would mean another monthly bill they couldn’t pay.
That explains the exploding popularity of a Comcast program called Internet Essentials.
The Philly-based cable giant announced Monday that over the past year, its initiative had surged from 4 million to 6 million people connected.
Those numbers include nearly 200,000 low-income Philadelphians. By enrolling in the seven-year-old program, these residents scored a massive discount — they pay just $10 per month for regular internet service. That’s the same price tag as when the program first started back in 2011.
The program, which Comcast says is the company’s “No. 1 community impact initiative,” targets people who are experiencing economic hardship, providing cheap internet service every month as long as you meet the qualifications. You’re eligible for the program if you:
- Have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program
- Receive HUD housing assistance (this includes the Philadelphia Housing Authority)
- Enroll in a two-year community college and receive a Pell Grant
- Are age 62 or older and receive public assistance
- Do not have outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than a year old (if your debt is more than a year old, you may still be eligible)
- Live in an area where Comcast internet service is available but have not subscribed to it within the last 90 days
Alexis Floan signed up for the program from her West Philly home about four months ago. She’s 19 years old, and lives with her mother. She currently works two part-time jobs — one at the Children’s Place, and one at Chick-Fil-A.
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Floan had trouble making ends meet, but she couldn’t go without internet — she’s a student at Delaware County Community College, and she needed it to finish her schoolwork. In the past few months, the reduced bill has lifted a weight off their shoulders.
“It’s definitely much better,” Floan said. “Everybody should try it and see if they qualify, because it is a great help.”
Floan is one of many Philadelphians who recently signed up for the program — the city’s enrollment in the program increased by 63 percent in the last year.
This is especially notable because the last time Philly tried something like this, it was a major failure.
(Psst, read Technical.ly Philly’s report on Internet Essentials’ expansion of benefits to low-income vets here.)-30-
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