A new initiative that is designed to help low-income South Florida families bridge the digital divide was unveiled Thursday morning by local officials and Comcast executives.
The program will provide low-cost Internet, computer vouchers and online training to families with children who receive a free school lunch as part of their enrollment in the National School Lunch Program.
Offering poor children Internet access is a "moral imperative," County Superintendent of Public Schools Alberto Carvalho said at Thursday's event, at Phillis Wheatley Elementary in Miami.
The program will provide residential Internet service for $9.95 a month plus taxes, with no price increases, no activation fees, or equipment rental fees, as well as a voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax.
"Access to the Internet has the potential to be a great equalizer and a life-changing technology," said Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David Cohen. "Internet Essentials helps level the playing field for low-income families. Access to broadband in student’s homes will help them connect with their teachers and their school’s educational resources as well as enabling parents to do things like apply for jobs online or use the Internet to learn more about healthcare and government services available where they live.”
Comcast will sign up eligible families in the program for at least three years, through the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
"It's great!" said 14-year-old Sarah Jerome, who said she's excited she can get a computer to share with her sister. Jerome starts 8th grade this fall and is in a technology magnet program.
Now she won't have to stay at school until 6 p.m. to work on a project. Her mom will still have to save two or three paychecks to buy a computer, she said.
Also at the unveiling were Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David Cohen, Regional Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Florida East Coast Region Filemon Lopez, CEO of Volunteer Florida Wendy Spencer, United Way President and CEO of Miami-Dade County Harve Mogul, President and CEO of Cuban National Council Guarione Diaz and President & CEO of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Miami-Dade County Lydia Muniz.
"It takes a village to support students," said Cohen, who added that Comcast is asking for help from parents, educators, community leaders and other government officials to join in this effort, spread the word and help increase broadband adoption in Miami-Dade County.
To get involved go to www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376.
Comcast Corp. is the parent company of NBCUniversal and NBC Miami.