Comcast doubles download speed of its Internet Essentials tier for low-income families

Starting in March, Comcast will double the downstream speed of its Internet Essentials tier for low-income families. (Comcast)

Starting March 1, Comcast Internet Essential subscribers will be getting a large speed increase at no additional cost. Comcast will double the downstream speed of its Internet Essential tier to 50 Mbps while the upload speed is set to increase from 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps.

Those faster speeds will mark the sixth time in 10 years that Comcast has increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of the service at $9.95 a month. To receive the increased broadband speeds, existing customers won't need to do anything.

The Internet Essentials broadband tier is provided to low-income households that are eligible through programs such as WIP, SNAP and Medicaid.

With more students moving to remote learning, as well as parents that are now working from home, Comcast is offering several options to keep customers connected. In March of last year, Comcast bumped up the Internet Essentials' downstream speed from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps due to the impact of the coronavirus. Also in March, Comcast made its public Wi-Fi hotspots available for free.

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In September, Comcast launched a multi-year program to provide free Wi-Fi at more than 1,000 community centers in the United States. Comcast is working with city leaders and nonprofit organizations to install these Wi-Fi spots, which it refers to as “Lift Zones.” The goal was to help students participate in distance learning and to do their homework. Comcast is also partnering with community centers to provide spaces where families can connect to free Wi-Fi through its Lift Zones.

To date, Comcast has installed several hundred Lift Zones to further address the homework gap. Comcast announced on Tuesday that it's working to connect 1,000 Lift Zones by the end of this year, which would be more than a year ahead of its original schedule.

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While Comcast angered some of its subscribers in November when it announced broadband data caps and price increases for this year, its Internet Essentials program has been a bright spot, especially during the pandemic.  

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In last month's fourth quarter and full-year fiscal results, Comcast reported robust broadband results, including the addition of 538,000 broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter and 2 million net broadband adds for the year, both of which were records.