Comcast launches $10 Internet access for poor families

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen this morning announced the official nationwide launch of "Internet Essentials," the program that will provide low-cost Internet services, affordable computers, and digital literacy training to families with children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

"Broadband is our central platform in this 21st century for economic growth, innovation, and information. Broadband can be the great equalizer – giving every American with an Internet connection access to a world of new opportunities that might previously have been beyond their reach," FCC Chairman Genachowski said on Tuesday. "But roughly 100 million Americans are being bypassed by the broadband revolution. That's 68% of Americans who aren't connected at home. Compare that to South Korea and Singapore where adoption rates top 90%. Low-income Americans and minorities disproportionately find themselves on the wrong-side of this digital divide."

Closing this digital divide is an important mission for government bodies like the FCC and NTIA, because opportunities in health care, education and employment are increasingly tied to an individual's access to the Internet.

More than 1,000 school districts are participating in the program, and nearly 4.5 million students could already be eligible for the Internet Essentials program. The program requires participants to live in Comcast's service area but not be a current Comcast Internet subscriber, and to have at least one child who is eligible to receive free school lunch under the National School Lunch Program.

Participants in the program receive residential Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, a $149 voucher to purchase a low-cost computer, the full Norton Security Suite, and access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person. Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program for at least three years.

"Workers aren’t just talking on the phone any more. They are processing transactions; accessing records and information; emailing, live text chatting, and managing accounts. These activities don't require advanced degrees, but they do require broadband and digital literacy," Chairman Genachowski said today. "I should note that many of those service center jobs will be at-home positions – jobs for people with disabilities who can’t make it into an office, jobs for stay-at-home parents who need flexible schedules, jobs for veterans returning from war and transitioning back into the economy. Adopting broadband can make your home a virtual office. The Internet Essentials program will help ensure that more Americans enjoy the education, health and economic benefits of broadband."

Photo: Rob Marmion/Shutterstock

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