Portions of Okeechobee, Hendry and Glades counties will have access to high-speed internett thanks to nearly $50 million in grant funding through the Florida Broadband Opportunity Program.
On June 13, Comcast has announced plans to expand its Xfinity 10G Network and bring high-speed Internet services to 25 rural areas in Florida, many of them for the first time, through the grant funding. These expansions are also a part of Comcast’s commitment to bridge the digital divide by bringing broadband Internet service to new and underserved areas.
Comcast was awarded grants worth nearly $50 Million to bring Internet service to almost 40,000 additional customers through the Florida Broadband Opportunity Program. This competitive reimbursement grant program was created to expand broadband Internet service to unserved areas of the state which will encourage job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of local economies.
“Comcast is committed to helping bridge the digital divide. We know that Internet service is a necessity in today’s increasingly digital world,” said Rafael Visbal, Vice President of Market Development for Comcast in Florida. “We have invested millions in the past year alone to expand our network to new communities across the state. Grant funding through the State’s Broadband Opportunity Program will allow us to push further and ensure more Floridians are connected to the vast resources of the Internet.”
The 22 counties included in the grant funding include some South Central Florida communities:
• Glades County - City of Moore Haven, Lakeport, and Ortona;
• Hendry County - City of LaBelle and Montura;
• Highlands County - Cities of Sebring and Avon Park;
• Martin County - Indiantown;
• Okeechobee County - Unincorporated Okeechobee County.
Following the June 13 announcement, Lake Okeechobee News readers shared some questions. Newspaper staff reached out to Comcast for answers:
• How much will the monthly cost be?
Comcast: The cost for internet is $35/month, but eligible, low-income households can qualify for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and have that reduced to $10/month and then the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can give eligible households a $30 credit toward internet and mobile. Costs change based on your eligibility for these programs and which plans you choose. You can find all pricing information on our website: https://www.xfinity.com/learn/deals
• When will this happen?
Comcast: “We do not have exact timing right now, but will follow up with our network expansion team to get an update and share with you.”
• Will areas now served by other providers that have low-speed service have the option to switch to Comcast?
• Will the Nine Mile Grade area in northwestern Okeechobee County be included? What about Fort Drum? Dixie Ranch?
Comcast: We will gather these details from the network expansion team to provide more clarity on which areas the network expansion will include and share with you.
• Are there any more detailed maps that show which areas will be served in unincorporated Okeechobee County? Can customers request their neighborhoods be served?
Comcast: “We will provide more detailed information in the coming months on the specific areas within Okeechobee County that will be served for this expansion. Our marketing team will also be reaching out to consumers and businesses in the area to make them aware of timing regarding when they can expect to sign up for service.”
“Expanding our network to make Internet services available in new areas is just the first step in bridging the digital divide for these rural communities,” said Michelle Oyola McGovern, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Comcast Florida Region. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it is all part of our commitment to digital equity and inclusion. Now it is critical that we work together with our community partners and local government leaders to educate everyone in these areas how to use the Internet effectively and safely, and how to make sure they are utilizing programs they may be eligible for, including Internet Essentials or the Affordable Connectivity Program.”
Internet Essentials, Comcast’s signature digital equity initiative and the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, will be available in all the expansion markets. Internet Essentials provides in-home Internet access for $9.95 for qualified households, plus multiple options to access online digital literacy and skills training. Qualified households may be eligible to have the cost of their monthly home Internet service paid for through the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Affordability Connectivity Program (ACP). For more information on Internet Essentials and the ACP, visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376).
For more information on Comcast’s products and services, visit www.xfinity.com or call 1-800-XFINITY (1-800-934-6489).