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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 6:31 pm | Overcast 56º


How One Company Is Helping Families Afford the Internet

Lack of home Internet access is a surprisingly widespread problem. Nearly two-thirds of the lowest-income U.S. households own a computer, but less than half have broadband service. Click to view larger
Lack of home Internet access is a surprisingly widespread problem. Nearly two-thirds of the lowest-income U.S. households own a computer, but less than half have broadband service. (Cox photo)

Try to remember life before the Internet — when fax machines were cutting edge and the simplest exchange of information relied on snail mail and phone calls. Just imagine trying to navigate life today without the Internet.

Impossible? It’s a reality for many low-income families who can’t afford an Internet connection, and it’s especially tragic for children who need access to do their schoolwork.

But one company, Cox Communications, is working to bridge this digital divide with Connect2Compete, which makes broadband available at the reduced price of $9.95 a month to thousands of qualified families with K-12 students.

The program has been an unqualified success, connecting more than 160,000 low-income individuals in Cox’s 18-state service area, which includes Santa Barbara, an effort recognized by then-President Barack Obama. Remarkably, more than half of those families report improved grades for their children.

“Technology and the Internet play an increasingly critical role in the education of our youth, yet students cannot take the Internet home in their backpacks,” said Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications.

“We are committed to staying at the forefront of the Internet adoption movement. Through strong partnerships in the communities we serve, we will build more bridges to enable all families to cross the digital divide, regardless of where they live.”

Lack of home Internet access is a surprisingly widespread problem. Consider that nearly two-thirds of the lowest-income U.S. households own a computer, but less than half have broadband service. And 90 percent of all college applications are submitted online.

More Than Access

Low-cost home Internet access is just part of the Connect2Compete program. Wi-Fi modem rental and installation are provided free of charge, and Connect2Compete subscribers also have access to more than 400,000 Wi-Fi hotspots for no additional cost.

Additionally, Cox works with hardware partners to provide free or low-cost computers to families in the program in select markets. The Connect2Compete program is available to students in nearly 800 schools in California, including those in Carpinteria, Goleta, Montecito and Santa Barbara.

“The Connect2Compete program, which is based on a decade-long program we did in Santa Barbara, is a collaboration with the FCC, and Cox was the first broadband provider to pilot the program,” said Kirsten McLaughlin, market vice president for Cox California.

“Our focus is to find those who still need this important resource, and we do so by partnering with hundreds of schools, nonprofits, libraries, elected officials and community leaders.”

To qualify, families must have at least one K-12 child and participate in one of the following government subsidy programs: National School Lunch, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families​ (TANF) or public housing assistance.

“Cox has had a long history of supporting children and education, including broadband adoption,” McLaughlin said. “Our company recognizes that having access to the Internet in the home is critical for a child’s educational success.”

Reaching out to the Hispanic community, Connect2Compete launched a media campaign with Spanish-language network Univision, promoting the program through live programming, public service campaigns and more.

Cox is highlighting its “Smart Tools for School” campaign to drive home the message that Internet access at home can promote confidence and curiosity, improving performance in the classroom and beyond.

“Today’s digital classrooms are tomorrow’s connected businesses,”​ Esser said. “The investments we are making in closing the digital divide help ensure our students are prepared for their careers and lifelong success after school.

“Together with partners like Univision, we are committed to closing the homework gap for all students, no matter where they live.”

Eligible families can click here to apply online, or call 855.222.3252.

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