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Comcast reaches out to open up the world for area children

  • Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell

Thanks to a new initiative by communications giant Comcast Corporation, thousands of children throughout the Mid-South may soon “have the world at their fingertips.” Thanks to a new initiative by communications giant Comcast Corporation, thousands of children throughout the Mid-South may soon “have the world at their fingertips.”

 Joe Sing and Tandra Cunningham of the Boys and Girls Club check out Internet Essentials computers during last week’s program launch. (Courtesy photos)

 Payne Brown of Comcast corporate greets Neshante Brown as the the Internet Essentials initiative made its Mid-South debut.

Comcast executives launched the Internet Essentials initiative last week to give youngsters in the Mid-South full access to the Internet outside the classroom. Youngsters receiving free lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) can now enjoy Internet access in their homes.

“What we are trying to do is bridge the digital divide,” said Otha Brandon, director of Government Affairs for Comcast.

Internet Essentials addresses three major hindrances to low-income households carrying internet service: (1) stressing the Internet’s relevance and use in learning; (2) computer costs; and (3) costs associated with high-speed Internet service.

Memphis City Schools Board President Martavius Jones is one of the program’s biggest advocates.

“A lot of children in Memphis City Schools coming from low-income families do not have 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access to the Internet at home as some of our more advantaged children do,” said Jones. “This Internet Essentials program is an affordable way for many families to provide Internet access and access to learning outside the classroom that had not been available before.”

Cutbacks in city government mandates that public libraries close earlier, denying low-income students the Internet access they have traditionally enjoyed, Jones said. Limited Internet usage means “limited learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

“This initiative goes a long way in addressing the availability issue for these youngsters.”

District 6 school board member Sara Lewis also praised the launch as a much needed equalizer among children in public schools.

“I think it’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It’s necessary, necessary, necessary,” said Lewis. “Our children now have the world at their fingertips. They can go online and visit Milan, or the Great Wall of China. They can enter online poetry tournaments and writing contests. Being an advocate for this program is a no-brainer. Internet Essentials just leveled the playing field of learning for our children. “

Brandon explored other opportunities open to the parents of Internet Essentials households.

“Parents will be able to engage in fun and educational activities with their children,” he said. “They can apply for jobs online. Many jobs now, in order to apply for them, you have to apply online.

“Memphis has a large number of families who do not have access to the Internet simply due to financial constraints. This program becomes very valuable to the Memphis market.”

Qualified families will receive: residential Internet service for $9.95 plus tax per month; no price increases, activation fees, or equipment rental charges; a voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax; and digital literacy training in print, online, or in person.

“We had a computer at Georgia Avenue back in 1967-68. Look at how computers have opened up access to so much information, so many opportunities for learning. Just imagine the possibilities,” said Lewis.

(For additional information and enrollment assistance, call: 855-846-8376; for Spanish, call: 855-765-6995. Internet Essentials access is also available online at: www.internetessentials.com.)

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