The number of families now part of Internet Essentials is up from 41,000 two years ago, said Cohen, adding, "I'm so excited. We're making incredible differences for families."
While experts laud Comcast for its efforts, several say the company's 220,000 family subscribers represent a small portion of the low-income population in need of digital service.
"The numbers for Internet Essentials are somewhat disappointing," said Temple University professor Charles Kaylor, an expert on the digital divide.
He said Comcast's efforts should be viewed with a certain "healthy skepticism," adding: "It's in Comcast's interest to get as many subscribers as it can, and this is one way to do that."
Others have criticized Comcast for limiting the program to families with children, saying many childless people, young and elderly, rely on computers for employment, medical information, and myriad other uses.
A company spokesman said the program hasn't expanded because "we designed this for families with children to help with their education."
Indeed, Cohen said, he was moved to initiate the program "because it's a kick in the gut for me when kids can't use the Internet to do their homework in the same way my kids did."
Despite the efforts of Comcast and others, the digital divide remains stubborn and profound.
Among U.S. households with access to broadband service in 2011, 69 percent used it, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
About 43 percent of people making less than $25,000 annually have adopted broadband service; 84 percent of those making $50,000 to $74,999 a year use the service, federal figures show.
In Philadelphia, the poorest U.S. city with a population over one million, from 41 percent to 50 percent of people lack access to computers in their homes, according to varying estimates from the city and Kaylor.
Making matters more difficult, a three-year, $6.4 million federal program designed to get Philadelphians access to computers and computer training is ending next month, according to Andrew Buss of the city's Office of Innovation and Technology.
The money, part of the federal stimulus, paid for so-called KEYSPOT computer access centers, Buss said. The city will pledge to pay nearly $750,000 a year for the next three years to keep as many of the 80 centers open as possible, Buss said.
Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.