Practical Technology

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The FCC’s plan to bring the Internet to the poor


I know about poor. I grew up in the backwoods of West Virginia. I was lucky. I had several gifts and made the most of my chances. Thus, I was able to move from a dirt road to Manhattan skyscrapers in a few years. Most poor people don’t get that kind of shot. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to help today’s poverty-stricken youth get their chance to move up by unveiling a plan to bring broadband Internet connections to eligible low-income families, Connect to Compete.

Working in partnership with National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) ISPs the FCC has arranged for poor families to get broadband Internet connections, without an installation/activation fee and no modem rental fees (with an option to purchase a $10 modem) for $9.95 a month. Eligibility for Connect to Compete will be limited to households that have a child enrolled in the national school lunch program and that are not current or recent broadband subscribers.

According to the NCTA, “Broadband is an increasingly integral part of getting a quality education, yet too few of the most needy kids have the service at home. Research shows the barriers to broadband adoption involve a complex mix of digital literacy, perceived relevance of online content, and access to low-cost computers and Internet service. Compete to Compete is the largest private sector initiative ever to address one key prong of the adoption problem: getting broadband Internet into the homes of students where the adoption problem is most acute. [It] can give millions more students the tools to do homework at home and to develop the skills they will need to find a job in the 21st Century economy.”

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