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Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Stephanie Cruz indicates her desire to attend college by raising her hand during the launch Internet Essentials, a new program designed to bring low-income families bridge the digital divide, during a press conference at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City Monday, Oct. 3, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — Comcast launched an Internet service program Monday that will bring broadband access and laptop computers to low-income families in Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert welcomed the announcement, saying it will open doors of opportunity for children and their families.

"Those who don't have access to that world are at a real and frowning disadvantage," Herbert said. "With Internet at home, children can research and complete their homework, adults can seek new or better jobs and families can explore the world together."

The program, called Internet Essentials, is available to families living in Comcast's service areas that are eligible to receive a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program. Families who qualify will receive Internet service for $9.95 a month plus taxes, and that rate will never increase. They will also receive a voucher to purchase a low-cost computer for $149.99 plus tax.

Rodrigo Lopez, regional vice president for the company, said "We're excited to bring broadband and computers to so many young people and families. … This program has the potential to help thousands of Utah families cross the digital divide."

Current participating districts include Salt Lake, Granite, Jordan, Canyons, Ogden, Logan and Weber. Additional districts are being approached to participate.

For more information about Comcast's Internet Essentials, visit www.internetessentials.com or call 855-846-8376. Spanish speakers can visit www.internetbasico.com and call 855-765-6995.

Email: mfarmer@desnews.com

Twitter: mollyfarmer