D.C. children who are eligible for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) will have access to cheap Internet service, digital literacy training and affordable computers as part of a nationwide Comcast initiative, launched on Tuesday.

High-ranking officials, including DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, gathered at Ballou High school on Tuesday to announce the “Internet Essentials” program, which aims to “close the digital divide,” according to David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corporation.

“If you look at a lower-income neighborhood, you’ll be lucky to have a broadband adoption rate of 10-15 percent,” Cohen told the AFRO. “We are the wealthiest and most developed country on this Earth and there is no excuse for this country to be depriving millions of low-income households from technology that would enable them to compete more effectively for 21st century jobs.”

“We are so grateful and wish to thank Comcast for expanding that access in the District of Columbia and helping to bridge the digital divide for our underserved DCPS students and families,” Henderson said.

Participants will receive a residential Internet service for $9.95/month with no price increases, activation fees or equipment rental fees. Customers will also be provided a voucher to purchase a computer for $149.99 and have access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person. The Norton Security Suite, an online security protection, will also be provided for no additional cost.

Cohen would not reveal how much Comcast is footing for the program, but he called the expense a “very significant investment.”

“We’re bringing a complete package program at no cost to the public,” he said. The company will also provide free modems. “We’re bearing the full cost.”

So far, more than 60 in-person training sessions have been scheduled and confirmed for September and more than 1,000 school districts are participating.

To be eligible, a household must be located where Comcast offers Internet service. At least one child must be enrolled in the free school lunch under the National School Lunch Program and the user should not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment. The D.C. resident cannot have been a Comcast Internet service subscriber within the last 90 days. Eligible families will remain in the program for at least three years.

?A recent study by a New York technology company Pando Networks found huge digital disparities nationwide. Pando tracked downloads of 4 million users from January to June 2011 and concluded that some states have higher connectivity speed—sometimes ten times faster than other cities. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region had eight of the ten fastest states, according to the study. But states in the rural Midwest and Mountain-West states were the slowest.

Comcast Cable was found to be at the top spot for the highest download speed of 890KBps.

For more information about the program, go to www.internetessentials.com for English or www.internetbasico.com for Spanish. Parents who would like to enroll in the program should call 1-855-846-8376 or for Spanish, 1-855-765-6995.