For qualifying families, Comcast is now offering a new low-cost broadband Internet service that will make it much easier for low-income families to get online. The program, named “Internet Essentials,” was initially announced in 2011 as part of the conditions required by the FCC in Comcast’s proposed acquisition of NBC Universal.
Originally, the program applied to families having at least one child receiving free school meals through enrollment in the NSLP (National School Lunch Program). Recently, however, eligibility has been broadened to include children who not only receive free lunches but also those eligible for reduced-price lunch rates. This offer beats most internet deals out there to provide Comcast internet plans to those who need but are unable to afford it.
The idea behind the Internet Essentials program is to “level the playing field” for low-income students and families not able to afford the expense of buying computer equipment and signing up for high-speed Internet service (which typically runs between $40-$60 per month).
Cost to families that qualify and enroll in the Internet Essentials program is just $9.95 monthly. This provides an Internet connection featuring a download speed of 1.5 Mbps and an upload speed of 384 Kbps. In addition to the reduced-rate Internet service, the program also offers an affordable purchase price of $149.99, plus tax, for a new Dell or Acer Notebook computer.
In addition to having a qualifying student enrolled in the school lunch program, three other requirements must be met for this program. These are:
The program is available in all locations throughout the country where Comcast provides service, which includes 39 states and D.C. This service area contains about 20,000 schools currently enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, spread out over about 1,000 school districts.
During its first year in operation, it’s estimated that about 100,000 families (400,000 individuals) took advantage of the Internet Essentials program. Now, with eligibility being extended to reduced-price as well as free lunch students, it is expected that the number of families enrolling into the low-cost Internet service program to triple.
While the Comcast program was initially slated for a three-year trial run, company representatives state that they have every intention of continuing the program beyond that time period. Qualifying families must re-register for the program annually.
When accepted into the Internet Essentials program, you are guaranteed that you will see no “after the fact” price increases after enrolment. You will also be relieved to know the program does not require any equipment rental or activation fees. In addition, the company provides printed, online or in-person technical assistance.
If you or your family members are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of computer operation or how to access and use the Internet, special digital literacy programs are available to help you learn. Topics include using the Internet, sending and receiving emails and other basic but practical skills such as job searches, contacting government agencies and finding information needed to complete school assignments. Video training courses feature several NBC television personalities such as Al Roker from NBC’s “Today Show.”
Comcast, while mandated to initiate the special low-cost Internet program as part of the FCC’s requirements for approval of the NBC Universal acquisition, says it was working on such a program for several years prior to the mandate.
Its altruistic actions are targeted as a way to give opportunity to low-income families who otherwise would not have the financial means to move into the digital world. Lacking computer literacy and the ability to access a home computer and Internet service, many lower income children would otherwise be left behind. With inexpensive access to these technologies, many more families will be able to discover the fantastic benefits the Internet has to offer.
If you have an interest in enrolling in the Internet Essentials program go to the website.