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Comcast to offer discounted internet rates for public housing

Comcast announced it would begin offering discounted internet service to all government subsidized homes where the company operates — about 2 million in total. 

The nation’s largest internet service provider began testing the offering in four cities earlier this year, and the program is now expanding across the country. 

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Seven states, including California, Illinois and Massachusetts, each have more than 100,000 government assisted homes in their boundaries. 

The Comcast expansion is part of a program pushed by the Obama administration to wire and offer low-cost internet service in public housing.

Google Fiber made a similar commitment earlier this year in the limited cities where it operates. 

“Today’s announcement has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids across the nation by giving them the tools to reach their full potential,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Julián Castro, said

Comcast’s program offers monthly internet service to low-income families for $9.95 per month. The company originally only offered the discounted price to families with school-aged children who were part of the school lunch program. 

The program expanded as the federal government has taken a larger role in subsidizing internet service. 

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to begin offering $9.25 per month subsidies to low-income families who want to purchase internet service. Those subsidies had previously only been available for basic cellphone and landline service. 

The subsidies combine with Comcast’s offering means that families who live in government-assisted housing and qualify for the FCC program could purchase internet service for almost nothing. 

Surveys have found about a quarter of households don’t have internet service, and those numbers are concentrated in low-income and rural homes.  

Studies have shown price is not the sole factor in the digital divide. When asked, some people without a wired internet connection in their home cite a lack of need, slow speeds, or the use of smartphones instead.