November 09, 2011

FCC Chairman Announces Plan to Make Broadband Internet Access More Affordable for Low-Income Households 

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Today at Langley Education Campus, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a partnership among private Internet providers that will make broadband Internet access more affordable for low-income District households with students in District of Columbia Public Schools.

The announcement marks the expansion of an initiative intended to help close the digital divide and ensure more Americans benefit from all the Internet has to offer.

In September, Genachowski, Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the launch of Internet Essentials, a new nationwide program which provides families with children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) with low-cost Internet service, affordable computers and digital literacy training.

Today, Genachowski announced that most of the large cable companies in the United States have committed to supply access for $9.99 a month to low-income households, expanding options for families in the District and across the country who do not have access to high-speed Internet.

“Roughly 100 million Americans aren’t online at home. That’s one-third of our population – a 68 percent adoption rate. Compare that to South Korea and Singapore where adoption rates top 90 percent,” Genachowski said at the Langley Education Campus press conference. “It used to be that being disconnected was an inconvenience. Not anymore. Whether we're talking about jobs, education, or health care, in this day and age, getting online is a necessity, not a convenience.”

Along with the low monthly price, a technology company will supply refurbished computers for low-income households for $150; Microsoft will provide software; and Morgan Stanley will help develop a microcredit program so that families can pay for those computers.

To be eligible, households must have a child enrolled in the national school lunch program and cannot be current or recent broadband subscribers. For those households, the $9.99 monthly price will apply only for a two-year period. The initiative would begin in the spring and extend to households nationwide in September 2012.

“Without broadband at home, students can't do online homework assignments that teach them 21st century skills, and their parents and teachers can't take advantage of great tools to communicate and help kids succeed,” Genachowski said. “We should close the broadband adoption gap because it’s the smart thing to do, and also because it’s the right thing to do.”

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