Redemtech, a little-known Ohio-based company, plans to make refurbished “business class” computers available for $150 to low-income users, FCC officials said today. In addition, Microsoft plans to make laptops available for educational use for $250 beginning next year, the officials said.
The new offerings are aimed at addressing one of several reasons that one-third of U.S. households do not subscribe to broadband—the lack of a computer. The news came to light in a presentation at the FCC’s monthly meeting today, where staff also highlighted other efforts the commission has made to close the broadband adoption gap.
Today’s presentation was largely a recap of previously announced broadband adoption initiatives, which the FCC has dubbed Connect2Compete (CP: Cable companies to offer discounted Internet service for low-income users). Previously announced initiatives include a plan by the nation’s largest cable companies to offer discounted Internet service to families with at least one child eligible for the government’s school lunch program. That agreement builds on an agreement that Comcast made as a condition of the approval of its merger with NBC Universal.
But although Comcast agreed to offer discounted computers as part of its merger conditions, the other cable companies made no such promise. And although Microsoft (along with Best Buy and some other companies) previously agreed to offer free or discounted computer literacy training (CP: Connect to Compete initiative aims to boost digital literacy Microsoft initially did not promise any computer discounts).
“No single actor can solve [the broadband adoption challenge] alone,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at today’s meeting. “It requires government and the private sector working together to solve it.”
As Genachowski and several other FCC officials said at today’s meeting, there is no silver bullet that will address all of the reasons some people do not use broadband. While Universal Service reforms aim to address broadband availability, and previously announced Connect2Compete initiatives should help address concerns about computer literacy and relevance, the lack of an affordable computer was a key concern that had not been adequately addressed until now.
The FCC also promised today to conduct research to determine the effectiveness of Connect2Compete components. Hopefully that research will reveal that the multi-pronged approach did indeed achieve the commission’s multiple objectives in closing the broadband adoption gap.