Students in Bend-La Pine Schools are given iPads once they reach third grade, which is great for learning, but can create a predicament for families with income barriers.
For many families, working with a tight budget means cutting out the “extras” from routine expenses. That can often mean nixing Internet service. But with technology advancing in schools and children being equipped with iPads, the importance of Internet connectivity in the home grows.
That’s where Connect2Compete comes in.
Connect2Compete is a program that provides eligible low-income families in existing community assistance programs with high-speed Internet for $9.95 per month, a significant discount from BendBroadband’s least expensive Internet package, which costs $34.99 per month. Through Connect2Compete, BendBroadband also requires no deposit, no installation or modem rental fees, and guarantees the price for two years.
“Making sure that kids have the Internet connectivity they need to succeed in school is paramount,” said Stephanie Senner, manager of Commercial Marketing for BendBroadband. “With schools transitioning to iPads, lack of home Internet puts children at a real disadvantage academically.”
BendBroadband partners with three area organizations — Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend, the Family Access Network and Bend Area Habitat for Humanity — to offer Connect2Compete. Officials with those groups refer eligible families to the program.
The Family Access Network’s school-based advocates work to break down barriers so students can be successful in school, says FAN Executive Director Julie Lyche, and Connect2Compete is an important part of their efforts.
“Often times items like paying for Internet connection are a luxury for our families,” Lyche says. “Many of our local students depend on internet connectivity to complete their school work. They are able to access free internet at school, the library or other public places, however finding time and managing transportation makes this just one more barrier for families. The Connect2Compete program allows our FAN families the opportunity to have access to internet service at home, something most families take for granted.”
FAN referred about a half-dozen families to the program during the first week of school, Lyche says. Currently, 21 families participate in Connect2Compete.
Krista Ledbetter contributed to this article.