Comcast offers low-cost Internet and computers

Tens of thousands of Philadelphia-area households could get low-cost computers and Internet service under a new program from Comcast.

When Comcast was seeking FCC approval of its acquisition of NBC Universal, the company committed to a program to help bridge the digital divide. The result is its Internet Essentials programs, which executive vice president David Cohen said is available nationwide to any family in a Comcast service area with a child eligible for free school lunches.

“The eligible families will receive three simple things,” Cohen said. “First, our economy broadband service at $9.95 a month, with no charge for the equipment, no activation fee, no contract, no requirement to buy any other Comcast service.”

Second, they’ll get a voucher to buy a computer for $150, thanks to help from Dell and Acer; and third, they’ll receive instructional materials and computer training.

In Philadelphia, the program will be facilitated by the school district, and through dozens of city computer centers created in part with the help of an $11 million federal stimulus grant. Sharmaine Matlock Turner, president of the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, said Internet access has become a household necessity.

“If you are looking for a job, a lot of that information now is going to be online,” Turner said. If you’re trying to figure out how to sign up for health-care benefits, you’re going to need to go online.”

Cohen said while provision of its low-cost Internet program was included in the FCC order permitting Comcast’s merger with NBC, it was something the company offered voluntarily and would have done anyway.

Comcast is offering the program to any qualified family in the 39 states where it operates, but there is one wrinkle. Families that are already Comcast Internet customers can’t get the $9.95-a-month deal.

To find out more or apply for the program, call 1-855 8-Internet.

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