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Broadband access to the Internet has become a fact of life for many Americans. We use it to find critical information. We use it to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. And we learn and study with it. It has, in many ways, revolutionized how we teach and learn, on the job, at school, and at home.
But what about the one-third of American households that hasn’t yet adopted broadband at home? Research from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Pew Internet Research Center, and other groups shows there’s no single reason why people don’t sign up. It might be a lack of digital literacy, little or no understanding of the relevance of broadband service, no computer at home, or affordability.
That’s why a new public-private partnership announced recently by cable’s leading broadband providers and the FCC seems so important. The “Connect to Compete” (C2C) program unites a number of non-profit and private partners in a coordinated, community-based program that is dedicated to a common purpose – promoting adoption among certain families with school-age children that have not yet hooked up to broadband.
Cable broadband providers reaching 86 percent of U.S. households with broadband service have committed to participate in C2C or some other complementary program. They’ll offer a discounted promotional rate of no more than $9.95 a month (plus tax) for high-speed Internet access to qualifying families with kids in grades Kindergarten through 12 who receive free lunch under the National School Lunch Program. Participating companies will waive installation fees in the case of standard or self-installation. They’ll throw in a cable modem free of charge during the length of the program, or offer to sell one for a deeply discounted fee. And those who sign up for the program will enjoy, at a minimum, download speeds of up to 1 Mbps, while some may receive faster speeds.
The program will launch in 2012, in the back-to-school period for the 2012-13 school year. There will be a sign-up window of three years. And any family that qualifies and signs up can stay in the program for up to two years.
C2C is the latest step in cable’s long journey of commitment to education. That commitment to the value of broadband in education actually began more than 20 years ago when we started to wire and connect tens of thousands of schools and libraries, first for cable TV, and then to the information superhighway we now call the Internet. Our efforts continue today, led by the industry’s non-profit education foundation, Cable in the Classroom, to promote and distribute educational content and help teachers and students use broadband technology and services safely and responsibly.
The program is also part of our legacy to promote broadband adoption. We’re fiercely proud of being the first industry to bring broadband to American homes. Today, our companies provide broadband service to more than 45 million American homes. We’re convinced that C2C will enable even more homes to adopt broadband – providing tremendous educational benefit to more American families.