Cable and Internet provider Comcast is launching a new initiative aimed at bridging the digital divide, offering discounted web access and home computers to families that meet income requirements.
The plan, called Internet Essentials, will be available wherever Comcast offers Internet services — which it currently does in 39 states. The company has launched websites in English and Spanish to promote the program.
As you may recall, Comcast acquired NBC Universal earlier this year. In approving the merger, regulators also required the company to help low-income households get online. It seems that Comcast can afford the new program: when it reported earnings this week, its revenue had risen 51 percent, to $14.3 billion.
For Newscast, Sarah Gonzales from WLRN-Miami Herald reports:
Under the initiative, families will get literacy training and Internet service for $9.95 a month (plus taxes). Hispanic and African-American communities are expected to benefit the most, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen says.
"When we look around the country, we see the disparities that exist," he says. "Quite frankly, people in lower-income communities, mostly people of color, have such limited access to broadband than people in wealthier communities."
The program is open to students in grades K-12. Texas, California, and Florida have the highest eligibility rates.
Families will also receive a voucher allowing them to purchase a new computer for $149.99 (plus tax).
The Herald's Laura Isensee wrote that "For the 2011-12 school year, a family of four making $29,055 a year would qualify — about 60 percent of the 300,000-plus students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools."
A release from Comcast provides a list of requirements a household must meet to participate:
- Is located where Comcast offers Internet service;
- Has at least one child eligible to receive a free school lunch under the NSLP;
- (As an example, according to the Department of Agriculture, a household of three would have to make less than $25,000 a year in income);
- Has not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days;
- Does not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.