What do low-income Hispanic children have to do with
high-speed Internet penetration?
A lot, as they comprise almost one-third (32%) of all
children in the federal free-lunch program and thus could be eligible for
-- a program Comcast kicked off earlier this month to comply with the Federal
Communications Commission conditions on its NBCUniversal deal.
Internet Básico is the Spanish-language, Hispanic-targeted
spinoff of Internet Essentials, which comprises a
1.5-Megabits-per-second downstream broadband-Internet service priced at $9.95
per month; a voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus taxes;
and access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person.
The package includes the Norton Security Suite of software
for no additional cost -- a $160 value, according to Comcast.
It is not yet clear how many U.S. Hispanic households will
end up benefiting from Comcast's low-cost Internet plan, but an MSO
spokesperson estimated that about 40% households in the National School Lunch
Program (17 million total) are within Comcast's footprint. Hispanic kids
represent an estimated 32% of this population.
To qualify for Internet Básico, a household of three would
have to earn less than $25,000 per year.
Internet Essentials and Internet Básico kicked off Aug. 4,
but Comcast has begun a series of public-relations and government-backed
programs to promote the initiative in top Hispanic markets. An Aug. 8 launch in
Atlanta was attended by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Comcast executive vice
president David Cohen.
"While America has increasingly become a digital nation,
many Latino families are being left at a disadvantage because they don't have
Internet service at home," Jose Marquez, CEO of Latinos in Information Sciences
and Technology Association (LISTA), a group which promotes the use of
technology for the empowerment of the Latino community, said.
Comcast will continue to roll out the program in more than
4,000 school districts in 39 states and conduct a PR campaign over the next few
weeks to raise awareness in Hispanic media. A Spanish-language campaign is also
in the works.
Internet Básico can be ordered anywhere in Comcast's service
areas, via an all-Spanish-language toll-free number, 1-855-SOLO-995
(1-855-765-6995). The phone number went live on July 15.