Cox will offer families who meet the guidelines Internet service for $9.95 a month. In addition, families can purchase a $150 refurbished desktop or a $199 laptop from GoodPC, a partner of Connect2Compete.
“Internet access is increasingly imperative for everything we do in life, and so much of that foundation starts with education,” said Brian Vahaly, chief operating officer of Connect2Compete. “With over 100 million Americans lacking Internet connectivity at home, it starts with events like today to start reversing the trend.”
The program is aimed at the school districts with the poorest families: Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Newport and Woonsocket, but any student who participates in the federal free-lunch program is eligible.
According to Connect2Compete, students with a personal computer and Internet access at home have graduation rates that are 6- to 8-percent higher than students who don’t have these services.
Although Rhode Island ranks among the highest in the nation for broadband speed and coverage, there are still 29 percent of Rhode Island households without Internet, Vahaly said.
Fifty percent of today’s jobs require technology skills and that number is expected to grow to 77 percent over the next decade. And more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies require on-line applications.
“I went 15 years without a computer,” said Samantha Assad, 18, a senior at Central Falls High School. “I finally got one last year. This program will bring new technology to families who weren’t getting the skills they need.”
To be eligible for the service, a family must have at least one child receiving a federal free lunch, an indicator of poverty. The family must not have subscribed to Cox Internet Service within the last 90 days and the household must have no outstanding bills with Cox.
Governor Chafee said his administration is dedicated to “helping those who need it the most,” urging families to take advantage of this service.
“The digital divide is real and we need to close it,” Providence Mayor Angel Taveras told a crowd at Central Falls High School on Wednesday. “It doesn’t just give you access to the Internet; it gives you access to the world.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien cited the financial challenges his city faced when he took office.
“Education,” he said, “is not something you can put a price tag on. “This is a great opportunity to collaborate.”
John Wolfe, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Communications, said, “With Internet access at home, students will be able to complete homework assignments, communicate with teachers and explore learning opportunities on-line to prepare students for a brighter future.”
To apply for broadband, visit www.cox.com.
To apply to purchase a computer, visit www.connect2compete.org
Chafee was one of many elected officials, including Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, Taveras of Providence and Grebien of Pawtucket, who attended Wednesday’s news conference at Central Falls High School. Participants also included Central Falls School Supt. Frances Gallo and Providence School Supt. Susan Lusi.