The recent debates over net neutrality and U.S. broadband penetration have given birth to a meme in circles of Congress: Broadband Internet access is a human right. Yet many families cannot afford the monthly fee. Mashable reports that Comcast is launching Internet Essentials, a low-cost program intended to make broadband accessible for many of those lost in the digital divide.
Internet and a computer in every home
According to Comcast’s corporate blog, Internet Essentials will “provide low-cost access to the Internet and affordable computers as well as digital literacy training to families with children.”
Strong second quarter 2011 results, driven in large part by the Comcast-NBC merger that closed on Jan. 28, have placed the cable and Internet provider in a position to easily expand services. As a reaffirmation of Comcast and NBC Universal’s self-proclaimed commitment to diversity programs, the Internet Essentials plan is billed as a lifeline service for people who have been unable to access basic broadband service in the past or not had the financial resources to be able to afford a basic computer.
Digital literacy: A race the US cannot afford to lose
Comcast calls Internet Essentials a “21st century civil rights issue.” Modern educators view digital literacy as essential if U.S. students are to remain competitive with their global counterparts. For America to remain a superpower, it cannot afford to allow its youth to fall behind. Cultural critics argue that connecting students online with their teachers and schools, and parents with employment, health care and other benefits will keep the U.S. on course.
What Internet Essentials offers
In order to be eligible for Comcast Internet Essentials, families must meet the following qualifications:
- Must be located in one of the 39 states where Comcast services are offered
- Must have one or more children on National School Lunch Program
- Must not have subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the past 90 days
- Must not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment
Broadband service, which will cost $9.95 per month plus tax, includes cable Internet download speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 384 Kbps. Families that enroll have the option of purchasing a browser-ready netbook computer that runs Windows 7 Starter for $149.99 plus tax.
Comcast Internet Essentials will accept new customers for “three full school years,” according to the Internet Essentials FAQ page.
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