September 21, 2011
Comcast Brings Cheap Broadband To Poor Families
Comcast On Tuesday fulfilled its commitment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by providing low-priced broadband internet service to poor families in exchange for its merger with NBC Universal.
The program, called Internet Essentials, allows families with school-aged children who qualify for the free lunch program to bring 1.5Mbps broadband internet into their homes for $10 a month. The program also qualifies these low-income families to purchase an inexpensive net-book computer to run web browsing software and other internet tools.
CNET reports that the program launched at Ballou High School in Washington, DC by David Cohen, an executive vice-president at Comcast and was joined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
David Cohen told CNET, “What has become apparent to us as a company is that there is a cruel irony when it comes to broadband. We have this wonderful technology which has the potential to be a great equalizer, providing access to education, health care, and jobs information across multiple income populations. But because of the adoption gap, or the digital divide, access to the Internet is actually exacerbating the problem instead of solving it.”
Comcast voluntarily committed to this program in order to lessen the digital divide. CNET notes that in higher income neighborhoods up to 80 percent of students will have access to broadband services, allowing teachers and parents to work together in tracking the student´s progress with technologies like homework tracking software. But in low-income neighborhoods the broadband penetration rate is closer to 15 percent, offering that extra help and access to materials online at home is a huge hurdle.
Cohen said, “It was a voluntary commitment to the FCC and the American people to provide discounted broadband service to millions of low-income families. The program will prepare the next generation, create new opportunities for more jobs and will make a positive difference in the lives of many Americans.”
According to Comcast´s Internet Essentials website, families qualify for the program providing they are located where Comcast provides internet service, has at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program, has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days and does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
Cohen told CNET that Comcast isn´t the only broadband cable provider offering this kind of service. Cable operators throughout the country are addressing the affordability and accessibility of broadband services, thus closing the digital divide.
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