Comcast offers $10 broadband to help poor children cross digital divide
That's the view of Dr. Robert T. McLaughlin, an education consulant with the state Department of Education and co-chairman of the Digital Opportunity Consortium, a nonprofit group working to expand the reach of the Internet.
About two years ago, to close the divide between the haves and have-nots, Comcast established Internet Essentials to provide nearly 1,000 New Hampshire families with Internet access for about $10 a month and a subsidized netbook — Dell or Acer — for $150. Originally, the family of any child who qualified for a free school lunch was eligible, but that was expanded to any family whose child qualified for a subsidized lunch, said Mark Reilly, senior vice president of government affairs for Comcast's Northeast Division.
Reilly said surveys of those families using Internet Essentials show 98 percent of the children were using it for homework and that grades improved for 94 percent of them. Additionally, 59 percent of the adults were able to find jobs by applying online.
Reilly said that, in Manchester, only 20 percent of those living in the inner city have Internet access at home. That compares to Bedford where 100 percent of residents have broadband, he said.
"Broadband is a critical ingredient for academic success," said Virginia M. Barry, commissioner of the state Department of Education. "I appreciate the vision of local school departments from the city of Nashua to the city of Portsmouth to support this initiative and encourage more families to get online. And we are grateful to Comcast for being a valuable partner in not only offering this important Internet Essentials program, but by providing digital literacy training as well. Having widespread Internet access in every home possible will ensure that our children have brighter opportunities in the future."
Since the program began, more than 220,000 low-income families nationwide — about 900,000 people — now have a broadband connection at home through the program.