A new initiative involving multiple cable and technology companies is looking to bring affordable broadband Internet and computers to low-income families. The Connect To Compete program is an FCC initiative with a goal of connecting as many as 5.5 million of the 35 million total households throughout the country that do not have broadband.
Several cable companies, including Cox and Time Warner Cable, have agreed to offer broadband connections to households with school-age children eligible for the federal free school lunch program for $9.95 a month. The offer will begin with the 2012-13 school year.
Both Microsoft and Best Buy have also signed on with a promise to offer PCs equipped with Microsoft Office to qualifying low-income households for $250. In addition, Redemtech will sell refurbished computers for as low as $150.
The FCC has had a long-standing goal of expanding broadband in the U.S. and hopes this private-public partnership will be more effective than some of the previous efforts. The FCC points to facts such as 80% of Fortune 500 companies only give jobs via online applications and young people with broadband Internet graduate at a 7% higher rate than those without it to justify the growing need for the expansion of broadband.