No one has actually referred to the Internet as “the Information Superhighway,” since the late 1990s, or thereabouts. Even so, the resource and its digital environs is still part of a serious resource that isn’t always accessible to low-income West Virginians and others in similar economic straits nationwide in the 21st century.
Philadelphia-based Comcast, the telecommunications conglomerate, set out to level that road Tuesday. Comcast announced the largest-yet expansion of its Internet Essentials program, which has provided broadband access since the first rollout in 2011.
For less than $10 a month, participants will receive high-speed Internet, free digital training sessions and the option to purchase a computer at a discounted cost.
“Accessibility,” is the watch-word, said David Cohen, the company’s chief diversity officer and senior executive vice president. If your child receives school lunch assistance or participates in Head Start or Early Head Start programs, you qualify, he said. If you’re enrolled in Medicaid or receive supplemental Social Security benefits, you qualify, he said. You also qualify if you live in HUD housing, or if you are a client through the Women, Infants and Children nutritional assistance program known as WIC, he said.
Military veterans who currently fall in the low-income category may also participate, Cohen said. Visit www.internetessentials.com for a complete list of participating programs and who else qualifies.
“The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history,” Cohen said. “It is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource.”
Meanwhile, more Americans are more at home in the digital domain these days, according to numbers culled by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Roughly 77% of the U.S. population own a smartphone, the center reports.
However, according to compilations by the center, adults whose education ended at high school are three times less likely to have home broadband service than their counterparts with college degrees. Students from second grade to senior year in Monongalia County Schools, in the meantime, regularly use Google Chromebooks as part of their lessons.