Comcast Offers Digital Lifeline To Disconnected The cable giant now offers Internet access to low-income families for $9.95 per month. Stipulated by its merger with NBCUniversal, the effort is meant to help children access resources they need for school. But families need more than cheap Internet access to bridge the digital divide, experts say.
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Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected

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Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected

Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, the question now is whether this effort can overcome the many other barriers that keep the poor from getting online.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Comcast vice president David Cohen says the new Internet Essentials Program will offer a big discount to low-income families.

DAVID COHEN: So it's a, you know, call it a 47- to $50-a-month product that is going to be made available to this population for 9.95 a month.

ABRAMSON: Now, many of us have been offered cable deals that looked good at first, but disappear in a few months. So, Comcast's David Cohen bent over backwards to say that this is for real.

COHEN: It is a permanent price, not a promotional price. And, in fact, you don't have to buy any other Comcast service to be eligible for that price.

ABRAMSON: John Horrigan worked with the Federal Communications Commission on its National Broadband Plan. He says that in surveys non-users do say price is a big barrier.

JOHN HORRIGAN: But they also cited other reasons, such as digital skills, lack of awareness of relevant content online.

ABRAMSON: That's why Horrigan, now with a group called TechNet, says Comcast will have to do a lot more than drop the price.

HORRIGAN: You also have to offer additional support services, so that these families become sustainable broadband adopters.

ABRAMSON: Consumer groups will be watching closely to see whether the company keeps up this kind of support, and whether Comcast continues to offer this price. It's supposed to be good for as long as a family has a child that qualifies for free lunch.

T: getting kids to college.

ERIC LESLIE: To have that financial aid access information, to know your different options for college, you have to be able to navigate the Internet and have that access, and not be afraid of it. So doing that with our parents are critically important.

ABRAMSON: Larry Abramson, NPR News.

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