Broadband has become a critical resource for getting an education at almost any level, finding a job, starting a business and many other societally important activities. Ninety percent of higher-income families have the advantage of having broadband in the home and they use it daily as a resource for information, education, and entertainment.
But according to the Pew Research Center, less than half of lower-income K-12 students have access to it in the home. This gap is called the “digital divide” and closing it is the primary mission of Connect2Compete, a national not-for-profit initiative aiming to bring students and families online by providing discounted high-speed Internet, low-cost computers and free digital literacy training to families.
This week, Cox Communications announced a nationwide partnership with Connect2Compete. As a result, any family in Cox’s territory that qualifies for the National Free School Lunch program also qualifies for the Starter Cox High-Speed Internet service for $9.95 per month. This includes installation and modem rental fees.
This isn’t the first time Cox has partnered with Connect2Compete. In April 2012, Cox and Connect2Compete rolled out discounted Internet programs to eligible families in San Diego, CA. In the fall of that year, it expanded the program to five additional markets, closing the divide for families and children in Macon, GA; Providence, RI; New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge, LA; and Oklahoma City, OK.
In a statement, Cox Communications President Pat Esser said, “Cox has a long history of supporting broadband adoption programs across the country, and doing so in a way that connects the most vulnerable members of our society – our children – so they can compete and have a greater chance of success in the digital world that awaits them.”
As we press forward into the information age, access to broadband technology will become increasingly important. Like all knowledge, access to the Internet has a democratizing effect, offering everyone the tools needed to compete in the 21st century. Expanding broadband access to un-served communities through the Universal Service Fund and closing the digital divide through partnerships like the one between Cox and Connect2Compete are the best ways to open these opportunities so all Americans have the chance to compete and succeed in our global economy.