By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

D.C. residents met with Comcast staff and city officials at Holmes Senior Wellness Center, 324 Kennedy St NW, as the broadband company launched Washington, D.C.’s Internet Essentials Senior Pilot Program.

It’s a comprehensive broadband adoption program where qualified seniors can receive broadband service at a low cost, around $9.95 a month and also have an option of purchasing a computer for just under $150.

D.C. residents met with Comcast staff and city officials at Holmes Senior Wellness Center. (Courtesy Photo)

The pilot program is new and is currently only offered to D.C. seniors aged 62 or older.

“It’s meant to help us cross the digital divide, said Jessica Gappa, Director of Community Impact for Comcast’s Beltway Region.

Gapp said the Internet Essentials program was launched back in 2011, and started out as a program focused on students to “help families be connected.” But there were other populations that could still be touched.

“After having conversations, after getting that base of folks connected we started to see other areas and demographics that could benefit from being connected to the internet,” Gappa told the AFRO. “From the D.C. area we heard feedback from local partners and officials that the senior population could use some benefits and attention.”

Gappa said having ears on the ground in the community was pivotal in addressing the needs of the community saying, “when looking at where a pilot program could be successful, you’re relying on your local partners, and there’s a really incredible senior servicing community.”

Comcast is also equipped to deal with the conundrum of reaching a population that may not have digital service – about digital service.

“One of the things we did was provide a flier to senior centers across the District and to get collateral into the hands of low income senior citizens,” Gappa said. “We really do still believe in that human element. And if people want to give us a call they can do that and talk through the program.”

A 2018 Pew Survey found that 11 percent of Americans do not use the internet. Of that figure, 34 percent of those who did not use the internet were over 65 years of age or older. Admittedly this number was a lot higher reaching 84 percent in 2000, the study revealed. Another 13 percent of Americans aged 50-64 did not have internet last year. Income level seemed to be a dividing line as well as about 19 percent  of those who did not have internet made less than $30,000 per year. The Pew study did note that the number of people without services has significantly dropped since the organization started the survey. In 2000 the number of Americans without internet was 48 percent.

The program also comes with free digital literacy training in which literature can be access in print, online or in person. For more information about the pilot program please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376.