Outreach Guide | How-To Guide for Families

Discover how your school district can use sponsored service to take the financial burden of paying for Internet off of low-income families.



As your school district works to get students connected to the Internet for remote learning during COVID-19, Comcast Internet Essentials may be a good option for low-income students who live in Comcast service areas.

Here is an overview of the program, including eligibility requirements and how to set up sponsored service.

1 | What is Comcast Internet Essentials?

Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest Internet program for low-income households. Comcast works in partnership with tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, municipalities, and nonprofit community partners to help bridge the digital divide and support digital literacy. They recently expanded Internet Essentials eligibility to include all low-income families, including seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

While eligible individuals can purchase Internet Essentials independently, school districts can also choose to set it up as a sponsored service, handling the payment of Internet service for any number of families within their purview. 

  • Key Features of Internet Essentials include: 
    • 60 days of free high-speed Internet service if families apply by 12/31/2020 
    • $9.95/month after the 60 days are up, or if families do not complete applications by the 12/31/2020 deadline
    • Bandwidth up to 25 Mbps Download / 3 Mbps Upload
    • No term contract, credit check, or Social Security Number required 
    • No installation fee 
    • Installation kit included 
    • Access to 40 1-Hour sessions of Xfinity WiFi hotspots outside the home every 30 days 
    • Free online digital training classes

2 | What is a Sponsored Service?

Sponsored service is when school districts handle the payment of bills to ensure Internet service remains continuous for students.  In April of 2020, residential broadband providers partnered directly with school districts to serve students. This type of agreement typically occurs when a school district determines which families lack Internet and then works with the provider to determine eligibility and pay for service. 

For example, public school districts in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco have partnered with Comcast to provide sponsored service, and Comcast is working with Albuquerque public schools on a similar program. Sacramento has also partnered with Comcast to make free Internet available to all SCUSD students.

3 | Why Might School Districts Consider Sponsored Service as a Connectivity Solution?

  • Sponsored service takes the financial burden of paying for Internet off of low-income families.
  • Residential broadband provides a more stable and reliable connection than alternative connectivity solutions such as mobile hotspots and is more cost-effective.
  • It empowers districts to directly impact families and their community in a time of great need.

4 | How can my District Set Up Sponsored Service With Comcast?

School districts must reach out to Comcast to set up their sponsored service account, iron out the details of the arrangement by estimating users and choosing term length, sign a contract, and obtain a unique promo code. 

  • In order to set up a sponsored service account, districts must meet the following minimum requirements:
    • 6+ month term (two months paid for by Comcast, four or more months paid for by the district)
    • 25+ sponsored customers (must be new customers only)
    • A contract is required: Comcast will send a draft agreement for sponsors to review and mark up with revisions (if any). A revised draft will be reviewed by Comcast legal and can take 2 – 4 weeks to finalize.
    • Geography: If the sponsor’s constituents live across multiple Comcast service areas, separate sponsor bill statements may be required.
    • Single point of contact: The sponsor will need to identify the person that will be Comcast’s point of contact for any questions.

5 | How do Districts Share Internet Essentials Sponsored Service With Their Students?

After determining eligibility, districts can share a unique promo code provided by Comcast with qualified families to use on their application during the sign-up process.

The district’s code, once validated, will ensure that the approved family’s Internet Essentials billing will be pushed to the district account.

6 | How does Comcast bill the district on behalf of families?

Sponsor districts receive one bill each month and are only charged once the family is approved and connected to Internet Essentials.

7 | What are the Eligibility Criteria for Families?

  • Must be in a Comcast service area.
  • Not currently an Xfinity Internet Customer (within the last 90 days).
  • Eligible for at least one public assistance program, such as the National School Lunch Program, housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI.
  • Form of Identification: for families that don’t have a Social Security Number, or don’t wish to share it, they can provide an alternate ID. Comcast accepts more than 30 different documents, such as a utility bill, Medicaid card, US or foreign driver’s license, or foreign national identification card. View the complete list of acceptable documents at InternetEssentials.com/get-help.
  • Have no outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than 1-year-old*.
    • *Due to the Coronavirus emergency, Comcast temporarily waived the no-debt requirement for families that apply and are approved by 12/31/20. After this deadline, it is assumed that standard eligibility rules will apply.

8 | How can Districts Work With Comcast to Determine Student Eligibility?

One of the primary value-adds of working directly with Comcast is that districts can determine student eligibility in advance of starting outreach to families, enabling a more targeted and seamless communication approach. How it works:

  • The district provides a list of student addresses.
  • Comcast reviews the lists and vets for eligibility (service availability, whether they have existing Comcast service, and/or outstanding debt).
  • Comcast sends back information on who is and is not eligible.
    • NOTE: If the district meets the overall 40% threshold for NSLP, they get put into “auto-enrollment” to expedite the process, but those families will still have to be evaluated against all criteria.
  • Once Comcast has pre-vetted and shared back the list of eligible students, school districts can begin outreach to those families that lack home Internet.
  • Comcast will also provide a list of frequently asked questions and key contacts that the district can reach out to when support is needed.

9 | How do Families Sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials Sponsored Service?

After they are pre-vetted, all families must submit an application to Comcast Internet Essentials in order to receive sponsored service. To aid with the sign-up process, Comcast will provide a dedicated phone line with agents trained about sponsored service as a resource for support. Upon submission, each applicant will again be reviewed for Comcast’s eligibility criteria and, with the district’s unique promotional code, routed to the correct sponsored service account. If Comcast cannot determine eligibility based on the application answers for any reason, families may be asked to provide additional proof of eligibility via mail, email, or fax. Typically, the turnaround time from application submission to applicant approval is 3-5 business days.

To see more about what the process looks like for families, refer to our How-To Guide for Families. 

10 | What Does Home Setup and Installation Look Like?

Self-installation kits will be shipped directly to each family and typically take 1-2 weeks for delivery (note that delivery times may vary depending on location)

What families should expect to receive in their kit: a small router/modem device called an “XFi Wireless Gateway,” a power cord, and two cables. The Gateway device will need to be kept plugged into a power source.

11 | What Types of Online Learning are Supported by Internet Essentials?

As with all connectivity solutions, bandwidth depends on the number of connected devices. With 3-4 devices connected, Comcast IE can support several of the most common learning modalities. Students should be able to reliably browse the web, view and send emails, download/upload documents, and stream videos (HD video streaming should work, but probably not 4K).

12 | How can School Districts end the Sponsored Service Agreement? 

The district will be notified 90 days prior to the end of the contract term. If the district would like to end sponsored service after their term is up, the unique codes will be removed from each family account. If families wish to continue the service and pay for it on their own, they will be billed. For families that would not like to continue the service, they will need to cancel and return their equipment. Note that families are responsible for any fees incurred should equipment not be returned to Comcast. 

13 | How Does the Equipment Return Process Work?

When the district’s agreement with Comcast has ended, managing the equipment returns process will be vital to minimizing any additional charges for families. How it works: 

  • In light of COVID-19 travel and safety concerns, Comcast is offering free UPS pick-up. Families can schedule an at-home pickup by initiating a return at xfinity.com/returns, printing a label, boxing up the equipment, and calling 1-800-PICK-UPS to get started.
  • If a pick-up isn’t ideal, families can also hand off their prepaid label and packaged equipment to a UPS delivery driver or drop off at a UPS Store.
    • If they don’t have a box or printer, they can bring the equipment to a UPS Store for help. Families should make sure to visit theupsstore.com for the most up-to-date locations and store hours.
  • The equipment will be removed from the family account within two weeks of receipt.

For more information, visit the Xfinity support page. You can also check out additional Comcast Internet Essentials resources:

Resources to Communicate Comcast Internet Essentials to Families

Comcast Internet Essentials Sponsored Service: How to Guide for Families