Comcast Connecting Free-Lunch Families to the Internet
Sen. Bill Nelson visited a Tallahassee middle school Thursday, joining a delegation of local state and county elected officials lending their support to a private cable giant’s effort to expand Internet access to low-income children.
Comcast held a media event at Griffin Middle School to announce its Internet Essentials program to parts of Florida within the footprint of the Philadelphia-based cable provider.
The program, kicked off last year in Delaware, discounts Internet access and training to families that have children in the federal free-lunch program.
Nelson, who according to OpenSecrets.com has received $45,500 from Comcast through PACs and individual contributions since 2007, applauded the private-sector effort.
“This program is going to bring a quick, mostly affordable and reliable broadband to families in North Florida that might not otherwise have access to it,” the Democrat from Orlando said.
“A child being able to learn the use of the Internet in school and being able to practice those skills at home, then families as well as the children can learn to protect themselves and their information online.”
Internet Essentials provides Internet service at $9.95 a month, and allows eligible families to purchase a laptop for $150.
The regular price to connect to the internet through Comcast starts at $29.95 a month, while Comcast officials estimated a laptop costs $300 to $400.
“The Internet is a great equalizer and a life-changing technology,” said Comcast Vice President and General Manager K.C. McWilliams. “But while the world has gone all digital, many low-income families have not.”
Comcast officials were unable to say how many students may qualify for the program in Florida.
Comcast spokesman Bill Ferry noted that in Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, there are approximately 123,000 students, of whom about half are in the free-lunch program, while approximately 15,000 of the 32,000 students in Leon County are in the program.
Besides having a child in the federal lunch program, Comcast requires families applying for the laptop to have no outstanding fees with the company and not to have been connected to the Internet through the company within the previous 90 days.