Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski applauded Comcast Tueday for its Internet Essentials low-cost broadband initiative, while calling on the rest of the industry to do all it could to close the digital divide.
The occasion was Comcast's D.C. rollout of the program, in which it is offering $9.95 broadband, digital literacy education and a low-cost computer to every home with a school-age child who qualifies for the nation's free-lunch program.
Comcast made that program one of its Comcast/NBCU deal conditions, but the issue has been on its radar for several years, including its backing of the Adoption-Plus cable industry effort that failed to get traction.
Comcast executive vice president David Cohen told Multichannel News that he hopes there will be "thousands or tens of thousands of additional Internet customers who, but for this program, would not have signed up."
Comcast is providing the service, with no installation fee, while Dell and Acer are supplying the computers, and various groups, including Common Sense Media, are helping with the digital literacy aspect.
At an event at Balou High School in D.C., Tuesday, Genachowski said Comcast's "Internet Essentials" program takes "big steps" toward the FCC's key broadband adoption goals of cost, digital literacy and relevance.
He also cited a Connected Nation study released Tuesday that showed that fewer than half (46%) of low-income homes with school age kids have broadband. Cohen told Multichannel News that 2.5 million to 3 million of those are within Comcast's footprint.
"Teaching to the lowest digital denominator doesn't work for our children or our country," said Genachowski. "I want to take this opportunity to applaud Comcast for their work on Digital Essentials," he added, "and I also want to challenge other service providers and those across the broadband economy to step up and take concrete steps to promote broadband adoption."