'Digital divide' effort by Comcast is gaining ground

Comcast's "Internet Essentials" provides the poor with low-cost access to the Web.

There’s renewed reason for hope that thousands more low-income Philadelphia households will be able to leap across the so-called digital divide, thanks to better coordinated efforts by Comcast Corp. and city and school officials.

Since the spring, nearly triple the number of city households have been enrolled in Comcast’s bargain-rate Internet service at just under $10 a month.

While only a fraction of the eligible low-income families are among nearly 1,500 subscribers to the Internet Essentials program, the growth has been encouraging, given disappointingly low numbers reported in April.

Nationally, the overall total of 100,000 subscribers to the service that Comcast began offering a year ago as part of its merger with NBCUniversal indicates that the initiative could prove to be one of the most far-reaching efforts to bring poor households more fully into the digital age.

As in other metro areas, the Philadelphia School District — now emerging from a period of leadership upheaval — will be key to getting out the word to parents of students who qualify based on their eligibility for free or reduced-cost school lunches.

So it’s good to see the strong support from city Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who joined Mayor Nutter and others Friday to talk up the discounted Internet service and related aid that’s available to help families acquire computers.

Twinned with city efforts to promote computer literacy, Comcast’s discounted Internet seems assured to deliver even more of its substantial promise.