Low-cost Internet for families receiving free school lunches

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Lambert Rochfort for the Seattle/King County Community Voice Mail Blog.

Would your family like to have high-speed Internet at home but can’t afford it? A new program from Comcast called Internet Essentials offers high-speed Internet for $10/month, a laptop computer for $150, and free Internet training, for families with children who receive free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

The Internet Essentials program was created because, when Comcast acquired NBC Universal in January, the Federal Communications Commission signed off on the merger so long as Comcast agreed to help low-income households get online.

Participants in the Internet Essentials program will receive:

  • Fast home Internet for just $9.95 a month + tax.
  • A low-cost netbook computer available at initial enrollment for just $149.99 + tax.
  • Access to free Internet training, online, in print and/or in the classroom.
  • Norton Security Suite online security software, with parental controls.

The computer is optional, you do not have to get the computer to receive discounted internet service. If you chose to buy the $150 computer, they will send you a computer coupon, a list of eligible computers and a list of local stores that sell those computers and accept Comcast vouchers.

Comcast promises that there will be no price increases, no activation fees, and no equipment rental fees.

With cable Internet like Comcast Internet Essentials, your family should be able to do all the things they want to do online, like email, homework, sharing photos, job searches, paying bills, watching videos, downloading music and more. The download speed is up to 1.5 Mb per second and upload speed is up to 384 Kb per second.

Your household is eligible to participate if it meets all of the following criteria:

  • You are located where Comcast offers Internet service: Comcast does offer Internet in most of King County; when you apply for the program, they can tell you whether their Internet service is available at your address.
  • You have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days.
  • You do not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.
  • You have at least one child receiving free school lunches under the National School Lunch Program: Children are eligible to receive free school lunches if their household income is below 130% of Federal Poverty Level, which amounts to monthly income of $1,594 for a family of two, $2,008 a month for a family of three, $2,422 for a family of four, $2,836 for a family of five (and add $414 of monthly income for each additional family member).

Customers will be accepted into the program for three full school years. Any household that qualifies during the next three school years will remain eligible for the program as long as a child eligible for a free school lunch is still living in the household. To participate in Internet Essentials, you must verify that your child is currently certified to receive free school lunches by providing a copy of this year’s acceptance letter or other document from your child’s school or school district demonstrating free-lunch status at their school. You will need to re-certify your child’s school enrollment each year to continue to participate in Internet Essentials and receive a discounted Internet service rate.

Starting this school year, families may sign up for Internet Essentials by calling 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376). Note that an application is not available publicly, you must call Comcast to request an application. When you call, they will verify your eligibility and then mail you a customized application to your address, which only you can use. If your application is approved they will send you an acceptance letter with instructions on how to get your internet service set up. For more information call 1-855-846-8376 or visit their website InternetEssentials.com.

Note: Solid Ground does not yet have any experience with or feedback about this service. If you sign up, let us know how it goes for you! Thanks.

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