Just announced by the FCC is a partnership with Time Warner and Comcast to provide low-income families with discounted, high-speed internet access. The program, called Internet Essentials, has a few easy-to-reach requirements: that at least one of your children qualifies for free or reduced lunch and that you don’t have any outstanding bills or unreturned cable equipment. The program gives users a high speed internet connection for $9.99 and makes it possible for the same families to buy a refurbished computer through Redemtech. Redemtech is a computer donation company who has partnered with major manufacturers and Microsoft to provide computer systems for as low as $150. Another plan is in the works to provide micro-loans to make these systems even more affordable.
I am extremely excited about this. I believe that computers are essential for a modern education, and internet access in particular connects students to the wider world, allows them to research papers, collaborate with peers, reach out to community resources, apply for colleges, and eventually apply for jobs. The Internet might seem like a luxury to some, but it was not long ago that electricity, telephones, cars, hot water, indoor plumbing, and refrigerators fell into the category of luxury items and now are essential parts of modern life.
I have several students in my own class that do not have internet access or a working computer at home and I would recommend this program to them in a heartbeat. I was glad to see that a good portion of Comcast’s site is geared around teachers and community organizers, providing brochures and print-outs to be given to families.
Sadly my school is not in a Comcast/Time-Warner service area, and rural high-speed internet access has been hampered by several political squabbles which included our governor returning stimulus money meant for expanding high speed internet to central and northern Wisconsin. Hopefully, the Internet Essentials program will be well-run and successful enough that it can expand into our neck of the woods soon. If you can take advantage of this program or know someone who has, please let me know how it works for you!