The National Cable & Telecommunications Association just announced that it will begin offering discounted, high-speed internet service for just $9.95 per month to families whose children qualify for free lunches at their schools.
While itâ€™s not a free program like the Lifeline Assistance free cell phone program, it certainly makes broadband far more affordable than itâ€™s been in the past.
This is fantastic news for the 5,500,000 American families who are eligible. And the vast majority will be able to take advantage since the service area covers over 86% of the population and reaches all 50 states. The only bad news is that the offer wonâ€™t begin until the spring of 2012.
About 35 million homes don’t yet have broadband. Of course, the lack of internet access hinders people’s ability to find and apply for jobs online and even to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available online.
The program is called Connect-to-Compete. And it includes a broad range of companies in addition to the cable companies. For example, Microsoft is pledging to sell PCs loaded with software for just $250 to low-income families. Redemtech, another participant, will offer refurbished computers for just $150. If a family canâ€™t afford even those low prices, Morgan Stanley has come up with a special lending program that itâ€™s offering to community-based financial institutions.
And the news just keeps getting better and better. Best Buy, Microsoft and nonprofits such as America’s Promise Alliance and United Way say they will support Connect-to-Compete with computer training programs.
All major cable companies will offer the $9.95 per month program for a minimum of 1 Mbps download speed. That doesn’t include taxes, but the companies say they will also offer free installation and free modems.
Eligible families must (1) have at least one student enrolled in the Free School Lunch Program; (2) not be a current subscriber to broadband (or have subscribed in the last 90 days); and (3) not have an overdue bill or unreturned equipment to the participating service provider.
Participating Internet service providers include: Bend Cable, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast (via Internet Essentials), Cox Communications, Eagle Communications, GCI, Insight, Mediacom, Midcontinent, Sjobergâ€™s Cable, Suddenlink, and Time Warner Cable.