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Low-cost Internet said to help kids' education

David Cohen, an executive director of Comcast, the cable company, took time out of his busy day on Monday, to greet students at Lee Street Elementary School, for their first day of classes.

While greeting pupils, Cohen, along with other Comcast employees, handed out brochures containing information about a new program the company calls, "Internet Essentials."

Cohen described it as an initiative designed to promote broadband adoption among modest-income families, whose children are eligible to receive free lunch as the part of the National School Lunch Program.

He said Clayton County's school system has nearly 32,000 families who will be eligible for the program.

"Through the Comcast Internet Essentials program," he, said, "many children in kindergarten, today, will now have broadband access throughout their entire grade-school education."

Under the Internet Essentials program, Cohen said, the cost for Internet service will be only $9.95 a month. Those eligible for the program will also receive a $149.99 voucher to go toward purchasing a computer. In addition, he added, customers will receive free online, and in-person, digital literacy training. "The $9.95 is a permanent price, there's no instillation fee, and no charge for the [equipment]," he added.

The reason the company chose to unveil the program at Lee Street Elementary School, Cohen said, is because the school has the highest number of students who qualify for the program.

"There are 500 kids at this school alone, who are eligible for the free-lunch program, and all of their households are going to be eligible to participate in this program," he said.

On Monday, Clayton County elected officials, school officials, and Principal Zach Watson of Lee Street Elementary –– along with a few school staff members –– joined Cohen and Comcast employees to show their support for the new initiative.

Cheryl Hobby, a fourth-grade math teacher at the school, said that, among efforts to improve student performance on the math and science portions of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs), this year, the school –– for the first time –– will use an online tutorial program called, "Study Island, "which is a standards-based assessment, instruction and test-preparation software program for grades K-12.

"What's so great about this program [Comcast's Internet Essentials] is it will allow for the kids to use "Study Island" at home," said Hobby.

The initiative is expected to reach 28 school districts in the metro Atlanta, which is about 317,000 modest-income homes, Cohen said.

And according to Cohen, in the 28 school districts in metro Atlanta, 41 percent of the student population is eligible for the program. He said, with a boost in broadband availability, the economy will also get a boost, and create several new jobs in the area.

"Comcast is the largest, high-speed-data provider in the country," he said. "In that position, we get to see the transformative nature of the Internet, and how powerful it can be in improving access to education, health care, and job opportunities."

Cohen added that the program will also be launched in several other cities, including: Chicago, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh. The goal, he said, is to get more Americans online, and help close the digital gap.

Anyone interested in signing up for "Internet Essentials," he said, can call the company's toll-free number: (855) 846-8376.