EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

October 9, 2013

Comcast works to bring low-income families online

Comcast is giving students from low-income families a break on high-speed Internet service.

In doing so, the communications company is helping keep students connected to their school work.

Comcast is starting the third year of its Internet Essentials program in Southern New Hampshire.

For families that qualify for free or reduced price school lunches, Comcast will provide monthly service for $9.95 and give them a chance to buy a notebook computer for less than $150.

That represents a $20 monthly savings for participating families.

“In New Hampshire, a little over 1,000 families have signed up,” said Rebecca Fracassa, Comcast’s director of community investment for the Greater Boston Region.

Across Greater Boston, about 7,000 families are participating, an estimated 220,000 nationwide.

Susan Ballard, a past president of the state chapter of the American Association of School Librarians, describes the program as a game changer.

“It’s a great program and much needed. These kids are the connected generation. They do need to have Internet access,” she said. “It’s not equitable when we can’t make that happen for all kids.”

Ballard said while working as a technology administrator with Londonderry schools she learned not every kid has access to the Internet or the same advantages as other households.

“Some families may have five people sharing a computer,” she said. “There is a digital divide.”

Kevin Verratti, the new director of technology for Windham schools, said access to the Internet matters to students.

“In an ever-wired world, this is something that definitely is bearing more importance,” Verratti said.

Comcast’s program was valued in Jaffrey and Rindge, where Verratti previously worked.

“This is a really great program,” he said. “They offered it at a price point that was just of incredible benefit to the community.”

North Londonderry Elementary School principal Mary Coltin recalled a student using the program to get Internet access.

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