At a time when computer savvy is increasingly important in schools, Comcast is extending indefinitely a discount Internet access program and is offering six months of free broadband service to qualified residents of Natomas and throughout Sacramento County.
The announcement is welcome news to Natomas Unified School District officials, who strongly support closing the "Digital Divide," stemming partly from typical broadband Internet fees that leave some students with far greater access to computers than others.
Computer illiteracy will hinder students as California moves to an assessment system in which test questions will be answered via keyboard, not pen and paper. The state also is implementing Common Core State Standards that emphasize computer skills. Natomas Unified has purchased more than 2,150 Chromebook computers for its schools this year.
“As education uses computers more and more, there’s almost like an assumption that a child will have Internet access at school and at home,” said Philip Arndt, Comcast director of government affairs. “It just really opens up the world of education – through the Internet – for research.”
Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, scheduled to expire this summer, was extended indefinitely this week. Qualified Sacramento County households that apply by March 18 will receive free Internet service for six months, waiving a $9.95 monthly fee that itself is heavily discounted. Market rates can be $30 to $40 per month, Arndt said.
Besides providing broadband access, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides the option of buying an Internet-ready computer for under $150 and offers multiple opportunities for free digital literacy training in print, online and in person.
Families qualify for the discount Internet program if they have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including students in parochial, private, charter, cyber schools or home schools.
Nationwide, Internet Essentials has served more than 1.2 million Americans, roughly 300,000 families, since it began in 2011. Within the Natomas Unified School District, 177 of about 2,000 qualified households have signed up, Comcast records show.
“Here at Comcast, addressing the Digital Divide head-on has long been a priority for our company,” David L. Cohen, corporation executive vice president, said in a press release. “We believe the Internet has the power to transform lives, strengthen communities, and inspire a new generation of leaders."
More information about Internet Essentials can be obtained by calling 1-855-846-8376.