Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman  (Source:
The broadband initiative will begin in Spring 2012, and will reach all low-income households in the U.S. by September 2012

The Federal Communications Commission and select U.S. cable companies plan to continue closing the digital divide with a new initiative that will bring broadband Internet access to low-income families for as low as $9.99 per month.

According to U.S. government estimates, one-third of American households, or 100 million people, do not have broadband Internet access either because they don't have access to it or because they can't afford it/don't need it.

Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman, has ranked broadband adoption at the top of his list during his time with the FCC. He has encouraged some of the country's largest cable companies, such as Comcast, Cox, Carter, and Time Warner Cable, to take part in the initiative.

"[The cable companies] looked at this and said, this is an important national challenge, let's be part of the solution," said Genachowski.

The initiative has no federal funding involved, and largely relies on the cable companies and nonprofit groups' cooperation. The nonprofit groups work to educate low-income households about their broadband eligibility while the cable companies supply the broadband access for a low introductory rate of $9.99 per month.

To be eligible for the low introductory rate, households must have a child in the national school lunch program, and they must not be current (or recent) broadband subscribers. The $9.99 monthly rate applies for a two-year period, and then the cable companies hope the subscribers will be willing to pay the higher rates from there on out.

The cable companies are not expected to lose any money in this venture. According to The New York Times, broadband service usually has "a high markup," so $10 a month will cover the costs of offering these services.

Once eligible, a technology company will supply a refurbished computer for $150, which Morgan Stanley will help the families pay for with a microcredit program, and Microsoft will supply the software. Education companies and employment Web sites will then offer content to get those who believe they do not need broadband access interested in obtaining it.

The broadband initiative will begin in Spring 2012, and will reach all low-income households in the U.S. by September 2012.

While the FCC is calling this the "biggest effort ever to help close the digital divide," it's not the only effort. Back in September, Microsoft announced that it help 1 million students from low-income families obtain broadband Internet access via a three-year commitment with the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a philanthropic organization operated by former President Bill Clinton.

Source: The New York Times

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