FCC Plan Provides Cheap Internet Access to Poor US Families

The Federal Communications Commission announced a plan Wednesday to provide reduced-priced broadband access and discounted computers to nearly 100 million Americans who are not connected to the Internet.

The push is a combined effort from federal officials and the large cable Internet providers, most of which have signed off on the deal, according to reports.

The cable Internet providers will provide broadband access for $9.95 per month to households across the United States that qualify for free or reduced school lunch programs.

Discounted computers will also become more readily available, according to reports. Redemtech, which refurbishes computers, will sell laptops and desktop computers to the same households for $150.

Microsoft also plans to develop low-cost laptops, according to reports.

The reduced price access is part of a nationwide push to get more Americans connected to the Internet and increase broadband access in the U.S.

Micro loans, made available through a host of local lenders, will be available to help low-income families pay for the computers and Internet access, said FCC Chairperson Julius Genachowski.

"In this difficult economy, we need everyone to be working together on solutions," Genachowski said. "Broadband is a key to economic and educational opportunity and these kinds of commitments to close the digital divide are powerful."

The program is slated to begin in spring 2012 in about a dozen cities, and expand nationwide by the fall of 2010. However, applicants must meet a series of stringent qualifications to get the discounted access.

One child in the family must qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to reports. About 17.5 million children are enrolled in the school lunch program in the U.S.

To qualify, the family also must be without an Internet subscription for at least 90 days and they must not owe the provider any money.

It is unclear how families who qualify can register for the reduced-price broadband access.

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