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Comcast hooks up Chicago school kids with low-cost Internet

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 8:25am
Mike Robuck

Today, Comcast announced its Internet Essentials program in Chicago, which will provide children in the area with low-cost Internet access and affordable computers.

Chicago-area households will be eligible to participate in Internet Essentials if they have at least one child eligible to receive a free school lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and are located in communities in which Comcast offers Internet service. The program also provides digital literacy training to families with children who receive free lunches under NSLP.

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the program, which will make its debut this fall when students return to school.

"Having access to high-speed Internet service allows children to do schoolwork, adults to find jobs and grow the city's economy, and families to learn and explore together," Emanuel said. "The Internet Essentials program is a perfect example of the city's government and business community working together to craft innovative, competitive solutions to the important problems facing our citizens."

Internet Essentials will run for at least three school years, but any household that qualifies during the three-year period will remain eligible for the discounted prices so long as a child in the household continues to receive a free lunch under the NSLP.

'Internet Essentials'

"Mayor Emanuel has proposed a very ambitious set of initiatives, all of which are designed to promote economic development and attract new business to Chicago," Cohen said. "As a corporate citizen of this great city with more than 1,000 Chicago employees, Comcast is proud to play a role and partner with Chicago in these initiatives. But we're particularly proud to be a partner in the mayor's ambitious broadband agenda, which tracks our own historic commitment to ubiquitous broadband availability and adoption across our footprint."

"The shared focus of the mayor and Comcast on broadband adoption is justified by the relationship between broadband adoption and jobs. Based on some national research, every one percentage point increase in broadband adoption in the city of Chicago should translate into 1,000 to 3,000 new jobs," added Cohen.

Internet Essentials will cost $9.95 per month for Comcast's Economy Internet tier, which features a downstream speed of up to 1.5 Mbps. Comcast said there were no price increases, no activation fees or equipment rental fees for the service.

On the computer front, participants will be able to purchase a computer for the base price of $149.99, but Comcast hasn't officially announced a computer manufacturer partner yet.

Free Internet training will be provisioned through online, in print and in person initiatives.

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