In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to Arlington Public Schools (APS) students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.
“The County welcomes this partnership with APS and Comcast to serve the digital needs of our low-income students,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “We are committed to equity. It is vital that all Arlington students have access to the digital tools they need to distance-learn until they can return to their classrooms full time, and they will need it in the future. Internet is now a critical tool for education, just like books and pencils.”
The program, using the CARES Act funds and which was expedited due to COVID-19, will be administered by APS through a contract with Comcast. Households that qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast will receive free high-speed home internet for one year from the date of signup.
“We are excited to partner with Arlington County and Comcast to provide free, high quality internet connectivity to students and families in need during this pandemic,” said School Board Chair Monique O’Grady. “As we prepare for the fall reopening of schools, it is more important than ever that all students are connected. Our students need the ability to access academic resources, as well as essential services and social and emotional supports, from home. This partnership and the County’s funding for the grant program allow us to stay connected to students who need us most and help bridge the digital divide to ensure access and support for all of our students.”
“I commend Arlington Public Schools and Comcast for working together to ensure that every student has access to the high-speed internet he or she needs to connect to online resources and learning materials, especially now during this public health crisis,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). “As every educator knows, the internet is a fundamental extension of the classroom, and as we continue to work to bridge the broadband gap, we must make every effort to ensure that students can advance and supplement their online learning, no matter where they live or how much their parents make.”
“This is welcome news. The coronavirus has highlighted the urgency to bridge the digital divide. This partnership invests in our future by providing high speed internet services to students and their families in Arlington County. I applaud the leadership of Arlington Public Schools, Arlington County Government, and Comcast in working together to address this critical issue,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).
Internet Essentials from Comcast brings affordable, high-speed internet, normally priced at $9.95 per month, to low-income households. Through this sponsorship program, APS will cover the cost of the service so that students can have much needed access to online learning and other resources.
“We value this partnership with Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County Government to help children and families get connected through our Internet Essentials program – for education, work and personal health reasons,” said Kevin Broadhurst, Comcast Vice President of Government Affairs. “The digital divide is complex and requires collaborative solutions, and Arlington is part of a growing group of cities and school systems that are joining with Comcast to help address this challenge head on.”
A family can qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast if:
- They are eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance including Arlington County’s Committed Affordable Unit (CAF), Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, VA Assistance and TANF.
- They live in an area where Comcast’s internet service is available.
- They haven’t subscribed to Comcast’s internet service in the last 90 days. However, families who are currently Internet Essentials customers or have recently subscribed are also eligible to receive APS-sponsored financial assistance through this jointly-funded grant program.
If a family was not previously approved for Internet Essentials by Comcast, they should apply again. Eligibility requirements have been expanded in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Due to the Coronavirus emergency, households with outstanding debt owed to Comcast may be eligible for Internet Essentials; this qualification is being waived if applicants are approved by Dec. 31, 2020.
How to Apply
Approved families will be provided a promotional code to use during their application process. APS will provide promotional codes to summer school families and students who requested MiFi devices first. Additional details on how to receive promotional codes will be provided to all APS families in July.
Applying for Comcast Internet Essentials takes just a few minutes on a computer or smartphone. The online application is available in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Somali, etc.). Additional languages are supported via 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376). Program information is also available from Comcast in Braille and ASL.
For more information visit Comcast Internet Essentials.