FCC aiming to help low-income families gain Internet access - Tucson News Now

FCC aiming to help low-income families gain Internet access

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

You could say Internet access is a necessity in today's world, and those who don't have it will be the first to tell you how hard it is not to have access.

Thirty-five million Americans, one-third of our population, don't have Internet access at home.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is hoping to make it easier for low-income families to log on.

Debra Stevenson from Pima County's ONESTOP Career Center says the Rio Nuevo office is crowded with people using the Internet to find a job.

"Oh my goodness, every day we have people coming in," Stevenson said.

People like Thomas Faras, who has been looking for a job since July.

"The kids always ask why I don't have the computer on or Internet going," Faras said. "It's just, I don't have a job right now, I got laid off so it's tough."

Faras took a three-hour bus ride to get to ONESTOP Wednesday morning so he could use the Internet to search for a job.

To help low-income families like Faras' the FCC is launching a $4 billion plan to give access to qualifying families, those who have not had Internet access for 90 days, and those whose children rely on free or reduced-price lunch programs at school.

"My children are on reduced lunch as it is," Faras said. "It would help out a lot."

Jordin Dehne is a recent high school graduate who has a laptop but says she can't afford Internet.

"We'll take it wherever we can get wi-fi," Dehne said. "It wastes gas and costs more money."

Dehne says in high school teachers often required assignments to be turned-in online.

"If you didn't turn it in, the teachers didn't care," Dehne said. "You should have access at all times."

Nearly 70 percent of Tucson Unified students from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible for free lunch, which means their families would qualify for the new low-cost Internet program.

The program would be operated by a new nonprofit called "Connect to Compete."

"It can help with the unemployment rate in the context that there are jobs online that you're not going to find in the newspaper," Stevenson said.

The program will start in select cities in the spring then reach all low-income homes in fall 2012. It will be overseen by the FCC and will be funded by various public-private partnerships, not federal money.

The Internet will cost about $10 a month, and discount computers will also be available for qualifying families.

We'll have the complete story on KOLD News 13 at 4. Stay up to date at KOLD.com or on your KOLD mobile app.

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