- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A cable provider serving the Golden Beach area now offers reduced rates for Internet service to families with low incomes.
Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides families with children eligible to receive a free or reduced-price school lunch under the National School Lunch Program with low-cost Internet service, low-cost computers and free digital literacy training.
“The Internet is such an increasing necessity in homes,” Julia Filz, Comcast spokesperson, said.
She said that the company has expanded its outreach efforts since the program launched last year, and so far has connected more than 100,000 families nationwide, including more than 1,600 families in Maryland.
Comcast is only currently available in a small section of St. Mary’s County, mainly in the Golden Beach area. Metrocast, another cable provider that covers much of St. Mary’s, does not offer reduced Internet rates based on a family’s income.
“We were finding there’s a digital gap Some people have it and some people don’t, and we want to do everything we can to close that gap,” Filz said.
This year the company made nearly 300,000 additional households eligible to receive the discounted service by opening up the program to families with children who receive reduced price meals at school.
Students not only use it to help with research on homework and other projects, but they can communicate with their teachers, search for scholarships and other educational activities.
Parents also log in to look for jobs, check up on their kids’ school work and more.
Families can sign up through the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
The $9.95 per month cost will not increase as long as at least one child eligible for either a free or reduced price school lunch lives in the house. There are no activation fees or equipment rental fees.
Internet Essentials offers comparable speeds to Comcast’s economy plus Internet service, which usually costs about $40 as a standalone service, Filz said.
Families that qualify are also given a voucher to buy a computer for $150, and given access to free digital literacy training.
Filz said the company for competitive reasons does not break out subscriber numbers locally, but that in addition to the Golden Beach area Comcast serves areas in Charles and Calvert counties. As many as 7,800 families in Charles are eligible along with 3,700 in Calvert County.
“The Internet Essentials program is designed to help bridge the digital divide and connect more lower-income families to the ever-expanding resources and opportunities available to them today through the Internet,” Bret Perkins, vice president of external and government affairs for Comcast Corporation, said in a prepared statement.
More than 100,000 families currently subscribe to the program for Internet access.
“In our second year of the program, we remain deeply committed to helping even more families get connected, and are grateful for the ongoing support we’ve received from our government, school and community partners across the state of Maryland and beyond,” Perkins said.