When Pittsburgh kids show up for school this year, they'll get a packet of information letting them know how they can take advantage of the Comcast Internet Essentials Program. The program will discount the cost of broadband internet services to $9.95 for children whose families qualify for the National Free School Lunch Program. They'll also qualify to get a laptop for $149.95 and for free digital literacy training for children and adults.
Comcast executives say they hope this initiative bridge the digital divide and afford lower-income children the same educational opportunities as higher-income children.
Local leaders are calling this a "game-changer." Congressman Mike Doyle says while computers are necessary for many students to complete assignments and for adults to find work, access records and remain competitive, the technology isn't available to everyone. "And yet as we all know there is a digital divide in this country that's growing, not shrinking. And while America has increasingly become a digital nation, many low-income families are left at a disadvantage because they don't have internet service at home," he said.
About a quarter of American households don't have a computer. Similar efforts by Comcast are being rolled out in Chicago and Miami, and in the next several weeks to more than 4,000 school districts in the nation.