During the June 20 Gainesville City Commission meeting, the commission discussed the need for a municipal broadband system, arguing that there is a “digital divide” in Gainesville, with some families unable to afford internet service. However, Cox’s Connect2Compete provides service for $9.95/month to low-income families with K-12 students. Cox also installs the service and provides a Wi-fi modem at no additional charge and doesn’t require a deposit regardless of credit score. Several commissioners argued at the meeting that not everyone has access to the service because people who have previous unpaid bills with Cox do not qualify.
The Connect2Compete program is nationwide, but yesterday Cox announced a pilot program in Gainesville that removes the eligibility restriction of unpaid balances on previous accounts. This change will allow customers who have a previous account with an unpaid balance greater than six months old to be eligible for the low-cost internet service.
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In addition, Cox has increased the speeds of the service: Download speeds are now 25 megabytes per second, the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of high-speed broadband service. Upload speeds have also increased from 1 to 3 megabytes per second to allow students to upload assignments and projects faster.
“We heard from community leaders that removing restrictions to the program such as previous unpaid balances would help more people take advantage of the service,” said Aimee Pfannenstiel, market vice president of Cox. “We are very happy to offer the speed increase and look forward to more families signing up for Connect2Compete.”
The pilot program was announced at the ribbon-cutting for a new Innovation Lab at the Boys and Girls Club on NW 51st Street. Cox provided a grant to the Club for state-of-the-art equipment, including ten new desktop computers, six laptop computers, an educational projector and 92-inch drop screen, virtual reality, AV system, and network. This new equipment will allow the kids the ability to do their homework and even share their screen with their teachers if they have questions about an assignment. A single iPad controls the entire room with the touch of a button.