The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is proposing a program – “Adoption Plus” or "A+" – designed to bring broadband access to students in need. The idea is to have the federal government fund computer literacy programs for qualifying middle school children; discounted computers would then be made available to these students, and if those two conditions were met, participating cable operators would offer entry-tier broadband service at a 50 percent discount.
Middle school students would qualify to participate if they were also participating in the school lunch program. There are about 3.5 million children in those grade levels in that program.
NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow said that if most students who qualify were to participate in such a program (not all live in the footprints of NCTA members), the cable participants’ estimated contribution would be about $572 million.
The plan, still firmly in the proposal stage, says federal funding would have to be available for literacy programs and suggests that federal funding would be useful to reduce the discount on computers. McSlarrow said the NCTA is proposing its members would ask for no federal funding to help subsidize cable’s contribution.
While the Adoption Plus proposal is coming from the NCTA, McSlarrow said other ISPs, including AT&T and Verizon, have been invited to consider participating in the program.
There are no obvious funding sources other than the broadband stimulus program, McSlarrow noted. If all stakeholders – cable and other ISPs, the PC industry, the government, etc. – were to come together on developing this A+ plan, it could conceivably be funded as early as the fall of 2010, in time for the second round of stimulus funding.
The initial proposal suggests that if adopted, the plan be instituted for two years and renewed only if the government determines that it is indeed effective, McSlarrow explained.
The A+ proposal is based on a successful pilot program conducted by Cox Communications in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Additional details are available on the NCTA’s blog.
The NCTA developed the proposal in consultation with the FCC. The FCC’s Blair Levin said of the proposal, and of the NCTA’s role in developing it: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and you’ve taken several steps.”
Levin said that he and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski offered their gratitude and profound thanks to the NCTA for offering the proposal.