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Making the internet more accessible to more people in the Roanoke Valley

By David Kaplan, dkaplan@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:25:35 AM EST
Updated On: Sep 12 2013 04:38:25 PM EDT

Around the Roanoke Valley, two separate initiatives are working to pave the way to make the Internet more accessible to more people.

ROANOKE, Va. -

For many, the internet is no longer a luxury, it's a part of our lives.

Around the Roanoke Valley, two separate initiatives are working to pave the way to make the internet more accessible to more people.

In the public sector, we're be talking about the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority.

Monday night, the City of Salem became the third locality to ratify a plan that would bring high speed internet access to the Roanoke Valley.

In the private sector, there is a new initiative from Cox Communications; partnering with a non-profit called Connect2Compete.

As long as a family has one child receiving a free or reduced lunch, lives in a Cox area and doesn't have any outstanding payments, that family can get high-speed internet for $9.95 per month, nearly 75% less than the normal price.

The program started last week in the Roanoke Valley and is already prevalent in some of Cox's non-profit partnerships like the Boys and Girls Club.

Cox says this program is meant to increase digital literacy among students in today's technological age.

"More and more our k-12 teachers are giving homework assignments that require research, so in order for those children to be more successful in school, it's important they have access to the internet," said Cox Roanoke Vice President Kim Henderson.

You can't access the internet without a computer, so this Connect2Compete program also works with families to give computers at extremely discounted rates as well.

Comcast also offers a similar program to Cox.  Its program is called Internet Essentials and says nearly 220,000 low income families have Internet in their homes because of the program. Like Cox, it charges $9.95 a month for internet and offers a lower-cost computer as well.

Back to the broadband authority, Roanoke City and Roanoke County have already ratified the plan, and Botetourt County votes on it soon, it's meant to lay the ground work for a stronger digital infrastructure.

It's hard to tell exactly how many people this well help, but when you consider the number of rural families that don't get broadband lines that's one thing.

Also, in Roanoke City Schools, a little more than 70%  of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, in Roanoke County schools around 25-percent, that's a lot of families who would qualify if they don't have internet already.