HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Comcast Cable unveiled a new plan in August to help low-income families gain Internet access.
"Comcast has created what we call Internet essentials," said Comcast Operations Manager Michael Davenport.
Davenport said they hope this program will help bridge the divide between lower-income families and their peers who depend on the Internet for communication, education and entertainment.
The program will benefit students on the national school lunch program by providing them with residential Internet service for $9.95 a month. Comcast says they will intact no price increases, no activation fees or equipment rental fees. Students also get a voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 tax and will receive access to free digital literacy training in print, online or in person.
Additional benefits include a complementary Norton Security Suite for virus protection.
Davenport said, "This will allow students to come home, do their homework and get on the Internet for a variety of reasons. So, Comcast sees this as an opportunity to help the lower income students have the same advantage as some of the other students."
Director of Technology for Hattiesburg Public Schools Ross Randall said, "The District has been trying to incorporate blended learning environments," but with many lower income families not being able to afford the tools to accommodate their kids at home, a program like this, will only help the digital learning curve.
"Regular Internet at home is expensive. Students are good about utilizing the library, and we do have our family education center that is open several days a week, but it is just not the same as being able to go home and get on the inInternetbsp;to do school work and be able to interact with things that they would be doing in class."
More than 90 percent of students in Hattiesburg Public Schools participate in the free or reduced lunch program. Therefore, Randall said many might not be able to afford a computer, even at a lower cost. However, the District is working to ensure every eligible student can benefit one way or another.
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 receives 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 and 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 the household still qualifies for the program until that child graduates from high school.
For general information about Internet Essentials, visit www.internetessentials.com for English and visit www.internetbasico.com for Spanish. Educators or third-parties interested in helping to spread the word can find more information at www.internetessentials.com/partner. Parents looking to enroll in the program can call 1-855-846-8376 or, for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995