This week saw the national launch of Comcast’s internet connectivity program for low income families. As a result of the Comcast-NBC merger, the company was required to create a low cost option for families in the US to connect to the internet. Dubbed the Internet Essentials program, it is undoubtedly a good thing to come out of the deal despite the more nebulous aspects.
The Internet Essentials program entails a $9.95 plus tax per month cable connection with 1.5 Mbps download speeds and 384 Kbps upload speeds, which is a good value compared to more expensive DSL or slower dial up connections. In addition to the Internet connection, families who sign up will receive a voucher through Acer or Dell for a computer in the amount of 149.99 plus tax. While specific specifications of the computer have not been given, Comcast describes it as a netbook computer with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and the Windows 7 Starter operating system. It may also be bundled with productivity software when available. Families will also have access to free training materials in print, online, or in person. The service will be available throughout the Comcast service area for eligible families. In order to qualify for the service, families must have at least one student eligible for free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, must not have any overdue Comcast bills or unreturned equipment, and the household must not have had Comcast service for the past 90 days. Unfortunately, those families with students who only qualify for reduced price (but not free) lunches will not qualify for the Internet Essentials program.
The ISP will begin taking customers starting in the 2011 to 2012 school year, and will continue taking on new customers for three years following the initial roll out. Customers who are already using the Internet Essentials service will continue to be eligible for it so long as at least one child is eligible for free lunches, they do not close their Comcast account, and they do not violate the company’s residential ISP service agreement.
I for one am glad to see Comcast offering this service as the Internet is becoming increasingly important for students as a learning, collaboration, and productivity tool. Students can now be on a more level playing field in their school work, and this is great news, even if Comcast was forced to offer it as a condition of their merger approval. If you are interested in or know a family that might benefit from the Internet Essentials service, please head over to the company’s website or call 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) for an application.