Microsoft is joining with several other companies to help low income students and families gain access to low cost PCs. USA Today reports that the effort is being lead by the Federal Communications Commission as part of a program it is calling Connect to Compete. Microsoft plans to offer students and low income families access to laptops and notebooks that cost just $250 and which will be pre-loaded with Microsoft Office. There will also be micro-loans available to those families to help pay for the costs of the PCs.
Another PC maker, Redemtech, plans to offer $150 desktop and notebook PCs as part of the program. Their machines will be pre-loaded with educational software and programs designed for helping to develop business careers.
In addition to Microsoft's and Redemtech's efforts, broadband Internet providers such as Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others plan to offer Internet access to qualifying households for as little as $9.95 a month for two years. The program is scheduled to launch in 12 to 15 US cities in the spring of 2012, will full nationwide availability planned for the fall of 2012.
One of the reasons cited by the FCC for this program is even though broadband Internet access is now available to about 95 percent of US households, almost half of the households who didn't subscribe to broadband net access said they didn't feel like they needed it. A quarter of those households also said they could not afford the regular monthly price. The story quotes Karen Mossberger, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as saying, "Cost is a really huge factor. Especially among African American and Hispanic groups."