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Comcast extends free Internet Essentials offer through 2020

The broadband provider is extending the free offer until the end of the year as Americans continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

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Comcast is extending through the end of the year its free Internet Essentials program to provide broadband service to low-income households with students. 

Comcast initially offered 60 days of free internet service to college, elementary and high-school students in March as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. That offer was extended to June 30 as states continued stay-at-home orders.

Though most schools will have ended for the school year by June 30, Comcast said it felt it was important to extend its free offer through the end of 2020 to help those affected by COVID-19. Comcast said it'll also continue to waive restrictions on the offer, such as not having a past due balance with Comcast to qualify.  

"Now more than ever, connectivity has become a vital tool for families to access educational resources for students, important news and information about their community and the world, telehealth applications, or to stay in touch with family and friends," Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services, said in a press release. 

Comcast started Internet Essentials in 2011 to help impoverished children who received free or reduced-price lunches at school get access to the internet at home. The program has been modified a dozen times to expand the eligibility requirements to include low-income veterans and people receiving public housing benefits. Last summer, the company opened up the program to all low-income households

Comcast charges $9.95 a month for the service and also offers free digital skills training. Customers can also purchase low-cost computers as part of the program. 

In March, Comcast, along with more than 700 other wireless and broadband providers, including AT&T and Verizon, voluntarily signed on to the Federal Communications Commission's Keep Americans Connected pledge. As part of this pledge, broadband and wireless companies promised to not charge late fees or disconnect service of customers who can't pay their bills. 

In April, these companies extended their pledge to June 30. At that time, Comcast also extended its offer of free Internet Essentials to qualifying households through the end of June.