WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to help close America’s digital divide in broadband service, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is proposing an innovative nationwide public-private partnership that combines digital media literacy training with discounted broadband service and computers. The Adoption Plus (A+) pilot program is a proposed two-year public-private partnership to promote broadband adoption for up to 3.5 million middle school-aged children eligible for the National School Lunch Program in approximately 1.8 million low-income households that do not currently receive broadband services.
The A+ program proposal is the product of discussions with and encouragement by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski; Blair Levin, Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, and their teams.
“We would like to thank Chairman Genachowski and the FCC’s broadband adoption team for their willingness to work with and encourage our industry to step forward with a plan to drive broadband adoption in low-income households,” said Kyle McSlarrow, President and CEO, NCTA. “The result of these discussions is the A+ proposal, which has two overarching goals: to drive sustainable adoption in populations that currently do not benefit from broadband, and to materially and positively affect educational performance among participating students.”
The A+ program would promote broadband adoption by recognizing that the multiple barriers to broadband adoption – including relevance, digital literacy, computer ownership, and affordability – require a comprehensive solution. The A+ program’s comprehensive broadband support structure includes: (1) digital media literacy training; (2) discounted computers that can access the Internet; and (3) discounted home broadband service to households that do not currently receive a broadband service.
While the A+ proposal is open to other broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who wish to participate, today’s announcement includes a commitment by the nation’s top cable broadband providers that they will provide eligible households broadband service and a cable modem at a 50 percent discount for two years, and free installation of broadband service. Cable providers represented by NCTA which offer broadband service to 86 percent of U.S. households have agreed to participate in the program, which, with full student participation, could reach a value of $572 million over the two years of the program (participating cable providers listed below).
School districts, or their state equivalent, would be responsible for providing federally funded digital media literacy training to eligible students, including online safety and the responsible use of broadband. Such training would have to meet minimum standards established by the federal government and be accessible to all eligible students—including instances where English is a student’s second language. The A+ proposal contemplates that school districts would be eligible for an estimated $100 million of federal funding required over the two years of the program to defray the cost of providing digital media literacy training and other administrative tasks.
Once an eligible student is enrolled in an A+ digital media literacy program, he or she would be eligible to purchase a single discounted computer. Participating computer manufacturers would be expected to provide their own contribution to discount the cost of computers. However, the A+ proposal also contemplates that federal funds may be available to provide further discounts off the price of computers.
For any household with a computer and an eligible student enrolled in an A+ digital media literacy program, participating ISPs would provide broadband service at a 50 percent discount; provide a modem at a 50 percent discount, whether purchased or rented; provide free installation of broadband service; and provide parental control software and other online safety/security tools. Participating ISPs would provide the discounted service for a period of two years, which would consist of its entry-level broadband tier. The A+ proposal does not contemplate any federal subsidy for discounted broadband services.
The program contains three eligibility criteria: participants must be middle school students (grades 6-8 or 7-9, depending on the particular school district); participants must be eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches under the National School Lunch Program; and the participant’s household does not currently receive broadband Internet service. These criteria were chosen to target a population where the A+ program can have a significant impact. Low-income households have dramatically lower broadband adoption rates than the general population, and middle school students – with appropriate guidance and digital media literacy training – are developmentally capable of safely and effectively taking advantage of the benefits of broadband.
Because this is a proposed pilot program, NCTA also proposes that the federal government be responsible for establishing a mechanism for assessing the impact of the A+ program. The assessment should include, among other things, the impact of the A+ program on broadband adoption rates and educational outcomes – both during the course of the program and after the program ends.
The A+ proposal is set forth in a regulatory filing late yesterday to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utility Service (RUS) – the federal agencies overseeing disbursement of federal stimulus dollars to promote broadband – and is being submitted today to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its request for comment on broadband adoption in connection with its development of a national broadband plan.
A more detailed description of the Adoption Plus proposal is available on NCTA’s website.
The participating cable providers are: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Bright House, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Insight Communications, Bresnan Communications, Midcontinent Communications, GCI, US Cable, Bend Broadband, Eagle Communications, and Sjoberg’s Cable.
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