Comcast is gearing up for the school year with its annual push to sign up low income families with students to its Internet Essentials program.
The MSO is offering up to 6 months of complimentary service for any family that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4th and September 20th this year will receive the benefit.
Comcast also said it intends to forgive the debt of some families that have subscribed in the past to the Internet Essentials program and still have unpaid balances. Customers who have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old are now eligible for the program. Comcast will offer amnesty for that debt for the purpose of connecting to Internet Essentials, so long as the customer meets all the other eligibility criteria.
Comcast said it plans to focus on schools where 100 percent of students receive a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program, and can therefore automatically apply.
The operator also said it will also continue to offer families the option to purchase a computer at less than $150, as well as provide access to free digital literacy training online, in print and in person. Comcast said it has sold over 30,000 thus far through the program.
Comcast and other cable operators have connection programs for low-income students. Comcast established its program in 2011, offering access for $9.95 a month. The original commitment was to offer the program for three years. Earlier this year, Comcast said it would extend the program indefinitely.
The company said it has connected more than 350,000 families, or about 1.4 million low-income Americans. The program is available in Comcast geographic footprint in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen was joined today by Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal at Peyton Forrest Elementary School in Atlanta to make the announcement. Georgia students are among the first in the country to go back to school.
“Internet Essentials is about transforming lives and inspiring a new generation of leaders to be digitally ready to access the information and tools all students need to succeed in the 21st century,” said Cohen. “By offering up to six months of complimentary Internet Essentials service, along with an amnesty program, we hope to convince even more families that there is no better school supply than having broadband Internet at home. With it, kids can do their homework and parents can be more connected to their children’s teachers and schools.”
“As a former school teacher, I know first-hand how critical it is that we prepare our children in and outside the classroom to succeed in learning and in life,” said Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal. “As a teacher, I didn’t just teach to one child. I taught to every student in the class, and that is also a goal of Internet Essentials: to ensure every child can build digital literacy skills that benefit them in the classroom and in life.”
Since 2011, Comcast and the Comcast Foundation have dedicated more than $200 million in cash and in-kind support to fund digital readiness initiatives nationwide, reaching more than 1.75 million people through non-profit, digital literacy partners. In 2013, Comcast announced its largest non-profit collaboration to date with Khan Academy to bring free, online educational content to more low-income families. Khan Academy offers a personalized online learning experience to students, in subjects from basic math to physics, biology, economics, art history, computer science, health and medicine and more. Khan Academy has provided 400 million lessons and learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems.