To create the map and families graphic, the Center for Public Integrity downloaded data for Comcast Corp.’s and Time Warner Cable Inc.’s service areas from the National Broadband Map database maintained by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The center matched the areas with census-tract data from the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey. The Center used the number of families that had annual income equal to or less than the federal government’s cut off for the national reduced-priced school lunch program in those areas. To be eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, families must qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.
The Center chose annual income of $35,000 a year and less because the federal government’s 2014 eligibility for the reduced-price school lunch program for a family of three is $36,612. The average family size is 3.2 people.
The 7.2 million families that have annual earnings equal to or less than $35,000 a year also includes married couples without children, may no longer have school-aged children and related family members living together who may not have children. It does not include unrelated persons living together and individuals living alone, which includes many seniors. Counting these people who earn $35,000 a year or less would certainly increase the 7.2 million figure, creating a larger gap between those eligible for Internet Essentials and those low-income childless individuals who aren’t.