It’s an Internet development in Colorado that has the potential of changing the lives of both students and their parents.
Teaming up with cable and Internet giant Comcast, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock Wednesday announced the launch of a new program that will provide home Internet access, as well as low-cost computers, to Colorado low-income families with children who are eligible for free lunches under the National School Lunch Program.
Called “Internet Essentials,” the program seeks to closet the digital divide between low-income families and most other segments of society by not only providing them with a voucher for a basic home computer and low-cost internet services, but a new understanding of the usefulness and relevancy of the Internet.
The price of a computer and Internet service, as well as a basic understanding of the relevancy of the Internet, was cited by the group as the major factors behind the lack of home Internet access for low-income families.
The announcement was made at a press conference at South High School where Hickenlooper and Hancock were joined by Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, Aurora Public Schools District Superintendent John Barry, Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David L. Cohen and other school and community advocates.
The Internet Essentials program has the potential to reach more than 48,000 children in the state who are currently eligible for the program. Bringing this type of technology to Denver and Colorado families has long been a part of the platform of both Hickenlooper and Hancock.
“Internet Essentials will not only help these students directly, but it will also provide valuable resources to their entire families and will move us one step closer to developing a 21st century workforce,” said Hancock, who pushed the importance of making Denver a base for a high-tech workforce during the recent mayoral campaign.
Hickenlooper also touted the link between providing Internet access and bolstering Colorado’s economic future.
“One of our top priorities is to help spur economic growth in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “These efforts include supporting increased Internet access in Colorado communities and finding new ways to harness the educational power of the web. Internet access is essential to helping Colorado’s economy grow and thrive.”
The Internet Essentials program has already been kicked off in a number of cities in the U.S., including Chicago, Newark, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston
Under the program, families who qualify would receive broadband Internet access for $9.95 a month plus fees, but would not be subject to price increases, activation fees or equipment rental fees. They would also receive a voucher for a basic, low-cost computer priced at $149.9 plus taxes, as well as access to a free digital literacy training program that will be provided online, in print and in person.
To be eligible for the Internet Essentials program, a family must be located in a Comcast serviced area and have at least one child eligible for the free school lunch program under the National School Lunch Program. They may not have subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the past 90 days and not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
The program will sign up new families for the next three years at a minimum. As long as a participating family has at least one child eligible for the free lunch program in their household, they will be eligible for the Internet Essentials program.
Because the program not only connects students with their schools’ online educational resources, but allows their parents to receive online job training and job opportunities, Internet Essentials will help “level the playing field” for low-income families, according to Cohen.
“(The program will connect) students online with their teachers and their schools’ educational resources (and) enable parents to receive digital literacy training so they can do things like apply for jobs online or use the Internet to learn more about healthcare and government services available where they live,” said Cohen.
A number of Denver-based and statewide community groups are assisting Comcast in bringing families into the Internet Essentials program, as well as leading digital literacy training courses. Among the groups involved are Mi Casa Research Center, the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, Mile High United Way, Centro San Juan Diego, Denver Scholarship Foundation, Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, Goodwill Industries of Denver, Intercambio Uniting Communities and Place Bridge Academy.