WASHINGTON, Sep 20, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson today announced the launch of Internet Essentials, a new nationwide program which provides families with children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) with low-cost Internet service, affordable computers and digital literacy training. The goal of Internet Essentials is to help close the digital divide and ensure more Americans benefit from all the Internet has to offer.
The program addresses what research has identified as three primary barriers to broadband adoption:
-- A lack of understanding of how the Internet is relevant and useful;
-- The cost of a home computer; and
-- The cost of Internet service.
According to David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President, "Internet Essentials helps level the playing field for low-income families by connecting students online with their teachers and their schools' educational resources. The program will enable parents to receive digital literacy training so they can do things like apply for jobs online or use the Internet to learn more about healthcare and government services available where they live."
Today, during an Internet Essentials launch event at Ballou High School in the District of Columbia, Mr. Cohen, Chairman Genachowski, and Chancellor Henderson were joined by students, school officials, and national and local community partners.
"This past January, Comcast made a commitment to the FCC and the American people to provide discounted broadband service to millions of low-income families. Thanks to continued follow through, I'm pleased to be here today at the national launch of the new Comcast Internet Essentials program that aims to provide high-speed Internet to millions of school-age children and their families who have not adopted broadband. 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. I challenge other service producers to take concrete steps to help close the broadband adoption gap," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
"Through the Internet, our students and their families can unlock unlimited learning and growth potential," said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. "Programs like Internet Essentials that provide instant access to information and educational resources should be implemented everywhere. We are so grateful and wish to thank Comcast for expanding that access in the District of Columbia and helping to bridge the digital divide for many of our underserved DCPS students and families."
This announcement builds on Comcast's long standing commitment to provide schools with cutting-edge broadband technology and training through programs such as Cable in the Classroom, an educational training for teachers, parents and administrators on the educational use of Internet resources and High Speed Education Connection, a program to provide free high-speed Internet access to schools nationwide. In 2002, Comcast rolled out a new high-speed Internet service in the District with an announcement that Ketcham Elementary School, in the same neighborhood as Ballou High School, would be the first to pilot the new service.
"Broadband is transforming the way we educate our young people. We need to help more of our students and their families who may not be able to afford Internet access. I applaud Comcast for helping to close the digital divide through the Internet Essentials program which will bring access to affordable broadband and computers to tens of thousands of families and students in the District of Columbia," said Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Comcast is working with a growing network of school districts and community based organizations across the nation to spread the word about Internet Essentials and provide digital literacy training. In an effort to increase awareness of the new service, which provides access to low-cost Internet service, training, and technology to low-income communities, already:
-- More than 1,000 school districts -- including nearly 20,000 schools with more than 4.5 million students who are eligible to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) -- and almost 1,000 community partners nationally have agreed to participate and share information about Internet Essentials;
-- Nearly 10 million pieces of bilingual Internet Essentials informational materials have been distributed to schools and grassroots organizations across the country; and
-- More than 60 In-Person Training sessions have been scheduled and confirmed for September and 30 Train-the-Trainer sessions have taken place in August/September.
Internet Essentials participants will receive:
-- Residential Internet service for $9.95 a month + applicable taxes;
-- No price increases, no activation fees, or equipment rental fees;
-- A voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 + tax; and
-- Access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person.
Additional benefits include the Norton(TM) Security Suite ($160 value) for comprehensive online security protection at no additional cost.
A household is eligible to participate in the Internet Essentials program if it meets all of the following criteria:
-- Is located where Comcast offers Internet service;
-- Has at least one child who is 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.
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program for at least three years, through the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Any household that qualifies during this three-year period will remain eligible for Internet Essentials provided a child eligible for a free lunch remains living in the household.