In western and central Kansas, the cable company Eagle Communications has built broadband networks in agricultural communities as small as Bird City (population 446) and Milford (545). Broadband availability is one thing. Broadband adoption – bringing a broadband connection into homes and lives for use on a daily basis – is the ultimate goal.
To help achieve this, Eagle Communications is working with area schools to make discounted broadband service available to low-income families with students across its territory. The offer: $9.95 a month for a high-speed Internet connection and a free cable modem for two years for families with students qualifying for free school lunches under the National School Lunch Program.
Eagle Communications launched the Connect2Compete initiative in the 30 communities it serves in April 2012. The company was inspired partly by the realization that broadband is becoming essential to success in the classroom and beyond. “Educators know that Internet access is key for students to succeed with more technology-based school work.” said Dennis Weese, Eagle’s Community Relations and Commercial Sales Director.
Eagle Communications‘ President, Gary Shorman, doesn’t expect the discounted offer to inspire massive increases in broadband adoption overnight but he says that’s not the point, “It’s one student here, one family there, and we believe that one by one we can make a big difference”
A key to getting the word out about the program is working in partnership with school administrators and teachers, Shorman says. Teachers, especially, are a major influence, not only because many increasingly rely on broadband-accessible content to supplement classroom lessons, but also because teachers often have knowledge about advanced technologies which parents sometimes lack. “It’s a generational situation,” Shorman says. “Our teachers play an integral role in helping their students get this service.”
Shorman thinks there’s already a proven path toward broadband availability through investments like those his company has made in advanced broadband capability. Eagle Communications has adopted the cable industry technical specification known as DOCSIS 3.0, currently the most advanced broadband Internet technology available over cable. He’s proud of the fact that Eagle has extended broadband access – and the new discounted-access program for low-income households – even to the smallest communities it serves.
“This is not a government program,” Shorman says. “It’s a private program that focuses on the needs of individual families.” In that regard, it dovetails with Eagle Communications’ broader goals, says Shorman. “It’s like our slogan says: “Our Community…Connected.”