Things are tough all over, and, several years into the recession, families are still cutting back. But some things that were once thought of as luxuries are now considered essential in today’s high-tech world — including Internet access.
On Monday night, Comcast Government Affairs Manager Tony Signorella was at the Valley View Board of Education meeting to introduce an initiative that offers a discounted rate for families who otherwise might not be able to afford at-home Internet access.
"As far as we know, this is the biggest step forward to close the digital divide," Signorella said Monday, just before the board voted to allow Internet Essentials information to be placed where families can access it during school registration events.
The program offers speedy Internet access for $9.95 per month for families whose children receive free school lunches through the National School Lunch program, plus a voucher to purchase a laptop for $149.99 plus tax.
Families will also receive Norton Security Suite antivirus software, and will have access to parental controls to keep kids safe online, Signorella said.
Board president Steve Quigley said the service will be beneficial to students who use computers during the school year, but find themselves without Internet access during the summer.
"In this day and age, even though we think everyone [has at-home Internet access], there are still those that do not," Quigley said.
Along with the school district, the villages of Romeoville and Bolingbrook are also supporting the program.
"While American has increasingly become a digital nation, many low-income Romeoville families are being left at a disadvantage because they don't have Internet service at home," Mayor John Noak said in a press release. "Comcast is leading the charge in making broadband adoption a reality for more families."
Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar also praised the program.
"This program is a great step forward in providing Internet service and training for those families in Bolingbrook who otherwise might not be able to afford it," he said in the release.
The $9.95 fee is locked in for families as long as they have a child enrolled in the free lunch program. No price increases, activation fees or equipment rental fees will be charged to Internet Essentials customers, Signorella said.
To be eligbile, households must:
- Be located where Comcast offers Internet service
- Have at least one child receiving free school lunches under the Natnional School Lunch Program
- Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days
- Not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment
Quigley noted that by allowing Comcast to place information about the program at Valley View schools, the district does not intend to promote the company.
"It's not like we're trying to give Comcast a leg up," he said, noting no other Internet provider offers a similar program.
"If there is a similar program to ours, we would welcome it," Signorella said.
To learn more about Internet Essentials, families can call Comcast at 1-855-8-INTERNET or visit www.InternetEssentials.com.