Seattle low-income students to get high-speed Internet access

Sep 27, 2011

The Seattle City Council voted Monday to provide high-speed Internet to low-income students for less than $10 a month. The Great Student Initiative is expected to help 16,000 of the 47,000 students in Seattle Public Schools who are on the free lunch program.

Through this new initiative, sponsored by Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the city will partner with Comcast and Microsoft to provide computers, software, services as well as Internet access.

“I am excited to launch Seattle’s Great Student Initiative and lead a national effort to educate our students on important digital literacy skills,” Harrell said in a press release.

Improve access and graduation rates

Data from the Federal Reserve show students without home Internet access have a high school graduation rate six to eight percentage points lower than students who have access in their homes, the city pointed out in its press release. The hope of this new initiative is to close that divide and provide more opportunities for future success.

“Getting technology and Internet access into the hands of our students is essential in building a pathway toward graduation," Council President Richard Conlin said in the release. "This will not only lead to a healthy workforce, but help in creating jobs."

Work on the resolution began in May, when Harrell met with representatives from Microsoft and Comcast to draft the resolution. In the agreement, high-speed Internet service will be sold for $9.95 a month, a 75 percent reduction from the average cost, and students will also be able to purchase netbook computers for $150.

The commitment from Microsoft is part of its Shape the Future program, dedicated to providing technology and access to students around the world. Comcast's Internet Essentials program provides "continued financial commitments to digital literacy programs," according to Len Rozek, Senior Vice President of Comcast.

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