Company Offers High-Speed Internet for Low-Income Families

The Internet Essentials program is open to households with children who receive free lunches through the National School Lunch initiative.

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.

darwin August 09, 2011 at 06:02 PM
<14> I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, TagCent.com
Erno of the Brook August 13, 2011 at 06:50 AM
This seems like a good program. I'm hoping that a family needing food assistance can put together the 150 for the laptop. Too bad the program couldn't include some kind of lease arrangement that would be more affordable. I really hope a lot of families can make use of this program because information is power.
AJ August 25, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Unbelievable. Where is our discounted rate? If we chose to send our kids to Bolingbrook public schools (which we don't for various reasons), I bet we would qualify. We may choose to educate our children outside of the *stellar* VVSD, but we still pay our taxes to the district. I think we should demand the same access. Just one more hand out to keep people enslaved to the system...
my conscience August 25, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Shannon, you failed to uncover or mention the reason that Comcast is doing this -- the FCC is forcing them to do it. The deal Comcast made with the FCC gives Comcast permission to buy NBC only if they provide internet to the poor. I think you will find that the FCC requires that as part of the NBC merger deal "Comcast will make available to approximately 2.5 million low income households: (i) high-speed Internet access service for less than $10 per month; (ii) personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchase price below $150″ . So if Quigley didn't tell you about the FCC deal, and only says Comcast are "not doing this to get a leg up [on the competition]", he was misleading you. This is a business deal on a large scale -- by merging with NBC, Comcast is in-fact getting a "leg up" on the competition.
Lori Janiec August 25, 2011 at 02:24 PM
This is interesting in the face of schools requiring homework to be done ONLINE now to save on book costs. My 2nd grader is doing Math, Reading and Science homework and quizzes online now. First thing out of my mouth was "What if you don't have internet access?" I happen to know of several people who have had to give up their internet to cut back. I realize there is the library, but they have limited hours. So do you cart the kids off to Starbucks? (Who incidentally are kicking people out of their shops if you're not purchasing!) Just fix the economy.


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