Comcast Plugs Broadband For Low-Income Families In Connecticut

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Comcast's publicity tour to promote Internet Essentials, a low-cost broadband service mandated by the FCC as a condition of its approval of the NBCUniversal deal, rolled into Hartford, Conn., Thursday.

Internet Essentials is available to low-income families with children who are eligible to receive a free school lunch as part of their enrollment in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program. The service costs $9.95 per month (plus taxes) and provides up to 1.5 Megabit per seconds downstream and 384 Kbps upstream.

Currently, the Internet Essentials package can be ordered anywhere in Comcast's service areas, which encompasses more than 4,000 school districts in 39 states and Washington, D.C. The operator is in the midst of a nationwide PR campaign to raise awareness of the program.

Comcast is required to offer Internet Essentials through the end of the 2013-14 school year.

"The Internet is a great equalizer and a life-changing technology," Mary McLaughlin, senior vice president of Comcast's Western New England Region, said in a statement. "Internet Essentials helps level the playing field for low-income families by connecting students online with their teachers and their school's educational resources and by enabling 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."

In Hartford, Comcast organized an event at the Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center.

McLaughlin and Comcast vice president of external and government affairs Bret Perkins were joined by elected and community leaders including: Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra; U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut State Sen. John Fonfara and State Rep. Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey.

Comcast hosted similar events in Atlanta on Monday and in Miami and Delaware last week, after kicking off the initiative in Chicago in May with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In addition to the requirement that families be enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, customers must not have subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days and must not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment.

Internet Essentials also provides a voucher to purchase a computer for $149.99 plus tax and access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person. The Internet Essentials package includes the Norton Security Suite for no additional cost, which is a $160 value, according to Comcast. 

Eligible families can order Internet Essentials by calling 855-8-INTERNET (855-846-8376) or for Spanish, 855-765-6995. More information on the program is available at in English and in Spanish.

About 45% of households with annual incomes less than $30,000 have broadband at home, according to the Pew Research Center.