There’s a digital divide in this country that is leaving children from poor families behind those of the wealthy and middle class in the area of technology in the home. The gap is huge, with only 45% of families earning under $30,000 having broadband in the home. Without access to the internet, children, as well as their parents, are at a disadvantage in education, access to services and utilizing all the other information the rest of us take for granted. Just how can a child keep up with most of the other children who have internet access, computers and other technology? It can be very difficult.
So we are pleased to see that Comcast has rolled out their plan to bring the Internet to an estimated 2.5 – 3 million families that cannot afford the $40 – 60 the company charges for their lowest plan. The program is called “Internet Essentials” and while it is not free internet, it is only $9.95 a month and features a 1.5Mbps download speed. And a family will even be able to purchase a computer for only $149.99. There are no activation fees and no equipment fees. What a great deal this is for these children and their families.
To qualify for the program, all a family needs is to have at least one child who receives free (not discounted) school lunches via the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). If your child is not on it and qualifies, you’ll need to sign up. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, a household of three would have to make less than $25,000 annually to qualify for the program. In addition, the fine print says that you cannot have been a Comcast internet subscriber in the last 90 days, and you cannot have any overdue Comcast bills or unreturned equipment.
Of course, you have to be in an area served by Comcast, But you’ve got a good chance, since Internet Essentials will be rolled out in more than 4,000 school districts in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Upon enrollment, the customer will have the opportunity to purchase the “netbook-style” laptop computer for $149.99 plus tax. It runs on the Windows 7 Starter operating system, and has WiFi connectivity.
Once enrolled, a customer will be able to continue receiving Internet service for at the same low price as long as at least one child in their household continues to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program
Since the qualification for the program are based upon the National School Lunch Program, we at first thought that the program might be paid for through the Lifeline free phone service program for the poor, since NSLP is one of the qualifiers, but we are happy to say that there does not seem to be any government funding involved.
This may or may not have been a goodwill gesture on the part of Comcast, because the program is actually a result of the Comcast-NBC merger, in which one of the conditions was that the company agreed to “increase broadband deployment in low income households,” for a term of three years. We do not know if they plan to continue the program beyond that time.
To get started, call Comcast at 1-855-846-8376, or go to their website, Internet Essentials.