Comcast today announced that it’s expanding its $9.95 per month “internet essentials” program to serve more low-income families.

The announcement came at a news conference with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at which she praised the program for helping close the digital divide.

Preckwinkle said nearly 16,000 families in Cook County have signed up for the program — more than 10 percent of the nationwide total since the program launched 16 months ago.

The program has been open to families with a child receiving free or reduced price lunches at a public school.

Comcast today said it’s expanding the program to also include low income students attending parochial and private schools and ones who are home-schooled.

In addition to the inexpensive internet service, the program also offers families the opportunity to buy a computer for about $150 and provides access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person.

More information about the program is available online or by calling 1-855-846-8376.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Nothing is free

    There's free "Obama phones" that come with free cell phone minutes under a federal program. There's reduced and free lunches for kids at public schools (we make our kids' lunches cuz we're on a budget).

    And now Comcast is expanding it's low cost internet services. Just one question – how much will Comcast raise their rates for the rest of us that don't qualify for this low cost service?

    Good thing there's AT&T and satellite service. I might just look into that. 🙂

    1. Those “free Obama phones”

      The "free Obama phones" you refer to have been a part of phone companies for decades. AT&T and all providers have been offering this service to low income people long before the current president became a source of blame for all your insecurities.

      1. Free Phone Info

        Since 1985 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has operated a program called Lifeline, originally designed to provide free landline phone service for low-income individuals. The government subsidizes telecommunications firms providing the service, and those firms also pass on costs to customers via the “Universal Service Charge” on their phone bills.

        The program expanded to include cell phones in 2008. That change has rapidly increased the cost to the federal government—$1.6 billion in 2011, up from $772 million in 2008. The number of Lifeline beneficiaries rose from 7.1 million to 12.5 million during the same period; cell phones account for roughly half of that 12.5 million.

        One of the major providers of the free cell phones—3.8 million subscribers as of late 2011—is Miami-based TracFone Wireless, a company whose president and CEO, Frederick “F.J.” Pollak, has donated at least $156,500 to Democratic candidates and committees this cycle, including at least $50,000 to the Obama campaign.

        Pollak’s wife, Abigail, is a campaign bundler for Obama who has raised more than $632,000 for the president this cycle, and more than $1.5 million since 2007. She has personally contributed more than $200,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 2008.

    2. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

      "Good thing there's AT&T and satellite service."

      It's called competition- if Comcast raised its rates "for the rest of us", we would be inclined to switch. So, I doubt they would raise their rates.

      Rather, this program is most likely part of their marketing budget. Generates good will and hooks in new customers who may later upgrade to higher priced/other services.

  2. Thank you Toni Preckwinkle and Comcast

    Great program helping to close a huge gap in the digital divide.

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