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Affordable Access Available for a Growing Number of Families
With Comcast entering the second year of its Internet Essentials program and the newer Connect2Compete program – which involves most other U.S. cable companies – gearing up to launch in a number of communities, reduced-cost Internet service is becoming available to more and more low-income families.
Growing, in part, out of negotiations between Comcast and the FCC over Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, the Internet Essentials program set out to provide Internet service for $9.95 a month to families qualifying for free lunch. Since then, the program has expanded to include families with children on reduced-price lunch as well. In addition to qualifying income-wise, families hoping to tap into the Comcast service must:
a) Be located where Comcast offers Internet service;
c) Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days;
d) Not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
Comcast also offers a computer to qualifying families for $149.99 (plus tax) as well as free, online Internet training. According to Comcast, since the program launched last year, more than 100,000 families have signed up in 39 states and D.C.
Other Cable Companies Follow Suit
Within the past year, additional cable companies – including Time Warner, Cablevision, Cox and other members of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association – have signed up for a public-private partnership with the FCC that offers a virtually identical deal for low-income families in the communities where they offer connectivity. As part of the Connect2Compete program, households that have one child in school, qualify for the federal free lunch program, and do not currently have Internet service can apply to receive the $9.95 monthly service and a relatively fast, refurbished computer for $150.
The program was announced by FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski in 2011, with a pilot launched in San Diego, CA, in the spring of 2012. Connect2Compete plans to expand its program to all 50 states in the coming months. It is scheduled to run for three years, and those who qualify within that period can take advantage of the special offers for two years.