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Midvale Journal

Low-cost internet available to households with children in Title 1 schools

Jul 30, 2019 04:36PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Siblings Ashley (left) and Jordan Lake use the internet at home to continue learning during the summer. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

An internet connection at home has become as essential to everyday living as water and electricity. In particular, internet access is increasingly required for those pursuing an education. That extra bill each month can be hard for families to pay, but there is a more affordable option.

According to Deneiva Knight, an external affairs director at Comcast, there are 4,200 households in Midvale who are eligible for a low-cost internet program called Internet Essentials.

Internet Essentials provides speeds of up to 15 Mbps (Megabits per second) for a monthly fee of $9.95 plus tax. There is no installation fee and the service can be canceled at any time. In comparison, the lowest cost internet option offered by Comcast is up to 25 Mbps for $20 plus tax per month, requires a one-year contract and a $75 installation fee.

CenturyLink offers internet plans to Midvale residents that start at up to 20 Mbps for $45 per month. Veracity and UTOPIA have plans providing 250 Mbps for $65 per month but are currently available to just over half of the city.

The more Mbps, the faster the internet. According to the FCC’s Broadband Speed Guide, streaming two high-quality videos at the same time on two different devices would require 10 to 16 Mbps. Light internet usage such as sending emails or browsing the web uses around 2 or 3 Mbps, so the 15 Mbps offered through Internet Essentials should be enough to handle a whole family of kids doing their homework. 

“I was once a single parent and in order to improve my circumstances I went back to school,” Knight said. “I did not have internet access or a computer so I went to physical classes at a college campus and while doing so missed out on spending valuable time with my son. I appreciate how Internet Essentials provides the means for parents to take college courses at their convenience, in the comfort of their own homes.”

Households may qualify for Internet Essentials if they receive HUD housing assistance or have children in elementary school. “All families of students attending Title 1 schools are pre-approved and do not have to supply any paperwork to prove eligibility,” Knight said. “Parents of students who do not attend Title 1 schools need to provide a letter saying their children are eligible for the free or reduced-cost lunch program.” 

The Title 1 schools in Midvale are Copperview Elementary, Midvale Elementary, East Midvale Elementary and Sandy Elementary.

Machelle Lake found out about Internet Essentials when it first became available. “It’s an amazing thing. I had Comcast at one point, but later we were in a transition and couldn’t afford Internet anymore. Through a conversation with customer service they asked if I’d heard about their low-cost solution.”

The family utilized the Internet Essentials program for five years, until they no longer needed the discounted services. “It really helped us at a critical time,” Lake said. “A lot of schools were transitioning to online platforms. My kids needed internet to turn in assignments and check their grades. Also, kids need to email their teachers. Some teachers are strictly digital.”

Lake, who works for Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, sees club kids who have to go to the library to use the internet. “But you need a library card and can only use the internet for a certain amount of time. The more schools become digital heavy, the more kids [below the poverty line] fall behind, just on everyday schoolwork.”

For Lake’s children, having internet at home improved their academic achievement. “Their grades did go up, which I attribute to being able to do the assignments and turn them in on time,” Lake said. “If I couldn’t drive them to the library, they couldn’t do their assignment.”

Having Wi-Fi at home made other activities possible for the Lake family, including job searches, research on schools or activities for the kids, email communication, streaming TV shows and accessing medical records.

Lake also purchased a discounted laptop computer through the Internet Essentials program. “My oldest daughter took that one to college.”

“Just like some people are visual learners, for my kids it’s easier to have the audio version playing while they read. It helps them process the words faster.” Lake’s youngest children, Ashley and Jordan, discovered people who post videos of themselves reading books so they can read along. Jordan, age 12, loves to read the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, “Goosebumps” and “Harry Potter.”

Jordan also loves “Prodigy,” an online math skills game. “He began playing it at school and enjoys it so much that he plays it at home for fun.”