DOLTON | Comcast is expanding Internet access into Thornton Township for low-income families who might otherwise not be able to afford it.
Officials on Thursday said they have declared the township, which has 17 municipalities, an Internet Enterprise Learning Zone. That means families whose children qualify for the National School Lunch Program can get limited Internet access in their homes for $9.95 per month starting in August.
Comcast officials also are contributing $10,000 to enhance a computer laboratory at the Faith United Methodist Church in Dolton, along with creating a computer lab at the Riverdale Community Resource Center.
Comcast Regional Vice President Matthew Summy said the company thinks such moves are essential because many lower-income families would not have access to the Internet if they have to pay the full fee of about $48 per month. He also said it is important for children to have Internet access at home, to supplement the work they do at school.
“Way too many families don’t have access at home and at school,” Summy said.
Internet Enterprise Zones have existed about a year in select neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides, along with far North Side neighborhoods. Earlier this year, similar zones were created for west suburban Cicero and Berwyn, and downstate Peoria.
But the new zone for Thornton Township is the first to come to the south suburbs.
Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli said he was pleased to see the increased access, which he said will benefit youth programs the township operates during summer and in afternoon hours during the school year.
Also on hand for the announcement at the Faith UMC Church, 15025 Grant St., was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who said she’s pleased to see improved Internet access come to the south suburbs. She said county funds are not directly supporting the effort, although she noted that township funds being used originated with Cook County government.
“The county provides the township with much of its funds, and it’s being used wisely,” she said.
Preckwinkle also taped a public service announcement for Comcast's Internet Essentials program that will air on local cable access channels in the south suburbs during August.
Dolton Village President Riley Rogers and Riverdale Village President Lawrence Jackson were pleased to see facilities in their respective communities receive improvements due to Comcast.
“This is a huge opportunity for us,” Jackson said. “Seeing as how we are a blighted community, this will be of great benefit to us.”
Rogers said increased Internet access benefits more than just children.
“For many people seeking a job, you have to go online to fill out an application,” he said. “Many companies don’t accept paper applications anymore.”