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COON RAPIDS, Minn. -- You've probably heard of the Digital Divide. It refers to the difference between people who have easy access to the Internet and those who do not.
For the past five years, Comcast Corporation has been working to close the gap with their Internet Essentials initiative.
"Internet Essentials will help them in their education to succeed through life, to be someone in the world," states a young mother, featured in an online video, produced by Comcast for its Internet Essentials program.
Comcast offers affordable Internet service, ($9.95 per month plus tax) for low-income families with children in grades K-12.
"So much of what we do now is online," said Dave Nyberg, Senior Corporate Affairs Manager for Comcast Cable. "In the Twin Cities we have had about 13,000, households sign up for Internet Essentials over the four plus years of the program.”
Comcast has made enhancements to their Internet Essentials program - like doubling the speed to 10Mpbs for no additional cost, and including a Wi-Fi router for free.
"With a Wi-Fi router in the home you could have multiple members of the family taking advantage of that Internet Essentials service at any given time."
To be eligible for Internet Essentials from Comcast:
- Eligible families must have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, also known as the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program.
- Have no outstanding debt to Comcast, less than a year old.
- However, families with outstanding debt, older than one year - may still qualify.
- Live within a Comcast Internet Service area, but have not subscribed to the service within the past 90 days.
Comcast also streamlined and expanded its auto-enrollment process, according to Nyberg.
"If a school has 50% or more of its student population enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, then all students, all families in that school would be eligible for Internet Essentials."
This week, the number of students enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program was included in the District 11 enrollment report. It showed the following five schools in Coon Rapids had over half their students enrolled in the Free and Reduced program.
Schools Eligible for Auto-Enrollment - Free and Reduced:
Adams Elementary 63%
Hamilton Elementary 59%
Morris Bye 54%
Coon Rapids Middle School 51%
The Internet Essentials program also provides the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for $150; and multiple choices for access to free digital literacy training, either online, in print, or in-person.
"We're excited to make this information available to our families," said Jeff McGonigal, Anoka-Hennepin School District Associate Superintendent of High Schools, referring to a brochure he helped put together about low-cost Internet services from Comcast and other companies.
"We don't endorse any of them," said McGonigal. "We see them as opportunities and we hope families will think carefully about what's best for them."
Comcast has reach over 550,000 families with Internet Essentials since its launch in 2011. It was part of the conditions which it was given to buy NBC Universal.
And for less than ten dollars a month, Comcast has reached about 18% of eligible low-income families in their service area, to help narrow the Digital Divide.
"By pricing Internet Essentials at that kind of price point were making it as affordable as possible for as many families as possible," Nyberg said.
If you want more information about the Internet Essentials program call 1-855-846-8376 or check out their website to see if you qualify.
(Copyright 2015 by CTN Coon Rapids. All Rights Reserved.)