San Francisco city officials gathered with Comcast executives and senior citizens today to launch a new affordable Internet plan aimed at decreasing isolation among low-income senior citizens in San Francisco through access to high-speed Internet in their homes.
David L. Cohen, senior executive vice-president of the Comcast Corporation celebrated the launch of a new San Francisco pilot program with senior citizens at Chinatown’s Lady Shaw Senior Center and discussed Comcast’s goal of closing the digital literacy divide.
San Francisco and Palm Beach, Florida will be the first two U.S. cities where low-income seniors will be able to purchase Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, according to Cohen.
He said the pilot programs were inspired by Comcast’s first iteration of their Internet Essentials plan, which has brought wireless Internet into the homes of more than 500,000 low-income families with school age children since it began in 2011.
However, Cohen noted that nationally only 20 percent of families eligible for the low-cost Internet through Comcast have participated in the program. He encouraged anyone with children to apply for the program. He said Comcast is also providing families with low-cost computers and free Internet literacy training.
Cohen said that when the program began Comcast was providing families with 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) Internet connections and is now able to provide a faster Internet speed of 10 Mbps.
For the $9.95 per month plan, customers do not have to sign a contract, nor pay an installation fee. A free wireless router is also included in the price.
Cohen said providing Internet to seniors would help alleviate senior isolation and allow the elderly to improve their quality of life.
“Now, with our low-income senior citizen pilot in San Francisco, we are opening up a second front in our attack on the digital divide so these seniors can get connected to the Internet in their homes and use it to communicate with friends, family, access healthcare and financial information, and enjoy online news and entertainment,” Cohen said.
San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the city’s Sunset District, said Comcast’s pilot program begins to close the digital literacy gap and will allow seniors to connect with family and friends online.
State Assemblyman and former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors David Chiu said today that there is a “very real digital divide” that especially impacts seniors, low-income individuals and immigrants.
Chiu encouraged the Asian senior citizens who reside at Lady Shaw Senior Center, an independent living apartment complex in Chinatown, to take advantage of computer literacy classes and learn to use the Internet to communicate with friends and family in the United State and abroad.
Chiu even gave the residents at Lady Shaw Senior Center his email address and encouraged them to write him emails.
Anni Chung, the president and chief executive officer of Self-Help for the Elderly, which owns and operates Lady Shaw Senior Center, said she is thrilled that Comcast chose San Francisco for its pilot program for seniors.
“We waited a long time, but finally our dreams are coming true,” Chung said, explaining that many seniors would like to be more connected and learn new skills.
Tracy Lee, a disabled woman who has been online for two years now, but still doesn’t have it at her home, said she likes to email with family, listen to music, watch movies and find new patterns for crocheting and knitting.
She said she hopes Comcast will expand its affordable Internet services to low-income individuals with disabilities.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News