500,000 have already signed up in the most successful program in the U.S. In Philadelphia, Comcast has agreed to extend the program to low-income individuals and seniors, "Internet Essentials" now delivers 10 megabit service, enough for an HD channel and plenty of surfing. They've simplified the application form, reduced red tape and have fewer restrictions. 

In August of 2014, while Comcast was looking for approval of the Time Warner deal, I spoke with David Cohen of Comcast about the program. "We're going to expand it to senior citizens and others, not just families with schoolkids." Many thought this was just hollow pr to look good in D.C., but talking to Cohen made it clear this was a passion project for him. He's now expanding the program significantly despite losing the merger fight. 

Bob Fernandez, in a thoughtful article, quotes Deb Socia of Next Century Cities. "This will be what people look at when they are organizing their franchise-renewal agreements in the future.

It's wonderful that it's [Comcast's] home town. They should take care of the people in the neighborhoods in the city where they have their headquarters."

Every effective program I've seen in the U.S. to increase broadband adoption centers around price discounts. Talk therapy just doesn't work here, as the NTIA Broadband Stimulus proved. Areas of Chicago with an NTIA "demand stimulus" program actually had slower growth in broadband takeup than other parts of the city. Cohen told me things wouldn't have worked without the outreach and added support, although they clearly didn't work on their own. 

Verizon, in FiOS buildings, will not serve anyone for less than $70/month. With Verizon willfully breaking the franchise agreement for universal FiOS in New York, large fines are in order. Wall Street Analyst Craig Moffett thinks the city is going to get tough. 

Taking care of the poor should be high priority.

Here's the pr. I often include pr so readers can decide for themselves about the company claims. I've followed this program closely and can confirm most of what Comcast is saying.

INTERNET ESSENTIALS DOUBLES SPEEDS, ADDS FREE WI-FI TO FURTHER CLOSE DIGITAL DIVIDE

As we enter our fifth back-to-school season for Internet Essentials, we are more committed than ever to attack the digital divide in a meaningful way.  I’ve seen first-hand the power that the Internet has to transform lives, strengthen communities, and inspire a new generation of leaders.  It levels the playing field by creating greater access to education, health care, employment opportunities, news, information, and entertainment.

So, it gives us great pleasure to announce a number of new and exciting ways we are enhancing the program.  These changes come from our own learnings, as well as from feedback from our customers and nonprofit and governmental partners.  Since we first offered Internet Essentials in August 2011, we have now made 25 enhancements to the program.  Highlights from this year’s announcements include:  

500,000 Families, 2 Million Americans (and counting…)

We have made real and measurable progress in closing the digital divide in America over the past four years.  Through the end of July 2015, we have connected more than 500,000 low-income families, or more than 2 million Americans, to the power of the Internet in their homes. 

To put that in perspective, 2 million is larger than the populations of 96 of America’s 100 largest cities, as well as the populations of 14 states, including Nebraska, West Virginia, and Idaho.  And it is multiple orders of magnitude greater than the impact of all other private sector low-income broadband adoption programs combined.

We’re seeing strength in the program’s momentum as well.  The first two quarters of 2015 have been the best in its history.

Expanding Auto Enrollment

We have again made it even easier for more families to sign up for Internet Essentials by expanding the number of schools that are eligible for our streamlined auto-enrollment process.  Now, if a child attends a school where at least 50 percent of the students are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, all student families in that school are automatically eligible for Internet Essentials.

Doubling Speed

Third, we are doubling the download speed of the service from up to 5 Mbps to up to 10 Mbps for no additional cost.  This is the third time we have increased the speed of the Internet service in four years.  It means families are now easily able to use multiple devices in their homes at the same time and have enough bandwidth to power resource-intensive services.

Free Wi-Fi

Fourth, we’re now offering a free Wi-Fi router to new and existing Internet Essentials customers.  Having in-home Wi-Fi was one of the most requested enhancements for the program, and it has many key benefits.  For instance, in-home Wi-Fi means Internet Essentials customers are now able to connect any Internet-enabled device including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. 

Combined with our new speed increase, it will now be easier for multiple family members to connect to the Internet simultaneously.  For example, one child could use her laptop to watch an educational video from Khan Academy while her brother uses their mom’s smartphone to look up definitions for a vocabulary test.  In addition, with in home Wi-Fi, customers are able to save money on wireless data usage bills by connecting their smartphones to their Internet service at home.

Senior Citizen Pilot Program

Over the past several years, we’ve focused on building a network of nonprofit, governmental, and educator partnerships to help spread the word about Internet Essentials to low-income families with children and to provide digital literacy training for that population.  We learned a lot in the process, and we’ve published two reports, authored by Dr. John Horrigan, that discuss those findings.

We have received feedback asking us to extend Internet Essentials to additional populations, especially low-income seniors.  While there are complexities with any expansion, we’re excited to announce we’re going to conduct several pilot programs designed to increase Internet adoption rates among low-income senior citizens. 

When seniors are on the wrong side of the digital divide, it can be isolating.  We’re excited about the opportunity to bring the power of the Internet to this new demographic, so they can stay in touch with family and friends and learn how to do things online like enroll in healthcare and pay bills.

The first pilot will take place in Palm Beach County, and a number of additional pilot programs will be announced in other markets in the weeks ahead.

Research on the digital divide for seniors is very clear.  According to the Pew Research Center, just 47 percent, or less than half, of seniors (aged 65 and older) have broadband Internet at home.

And the picture for low-income seniors is much worse.  Only 25 percent of seniors with household incomes below $30,000 have home high-speed Internet, compared to 82 percent of seniors with household incomes at or above $75,000.  That is a massive gap of nearly 60 percentage points, which is roughly twice the size of the gap in broadband adoption rates between low- and high- income families with school-age children.

Research also indicates that, as with the population of families with school-age children, perceptions of relevancy of the Internet will be the major barrier to adoption for seniors.  For instance, 35 percent of older non-Internet users don’t think they are at a disadvantage from missing out on information online.

In addition, research indicates how vital digital literacy training will be for any Internet adoption program to be successful.  Only 18 percent of seniors would feel comfortable learning to use a new digital device on their own, and 77 percent would need someone to help them.

Clearly, reaching seniors will require a different approach and mindset.  Internet Essentials was originally designed for a specific community – low-income families with children.  We want to take that same philosophy and tailor our approach to reach the low-income senior citizen population.  Just like with the original targeted population for Internet Essentials, we need to take our time and be rigorous, methodical, and thoughtful in our approach.  We know we have a lot to learn, but we’re confident we can make a difference, and we are excited to embark on a new journey.

 

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein

Latest

Professor Noam's "Many Internets" http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/nyregion/ultra-orthodox-jews-hold-rally-on-internet-at-citi-field.html . More from Noam http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board http://bit.ly/CEOPromises
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,http://bit.ly/CEOPromises

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling http://bit.ly/SorryPai
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors http://bit.ly/SorryPai

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More http://bit.ly/VintTim
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list, http://bit.ly/VintTim