Starting Tuesday, families living in the Cox Communications’ coverage area with at least one child who qualifies for a free school lunch will be eligible to receive the company’s high speed Internet connection for just $9.99 a month.

Cox is one of a handful of media companies participating in this subsidized Internet program, called Connect2Compete, launched by the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. The program is now independently operated by a nonprofit with the same name. Other internet providers participating are Comcast and FreedomPop.

Cox first partnered with Connect2Compete in April 2012, providing the discounted Internet offer to eligible families in San Diego.

Sharon Bethea, a spokeswoman for Cox, said the $9.99 a month offer is half of the normal $19.99 monthly rate for Cox high-speed Internet, and those who qualify won’t have to pay a deposit or fees for installation and modem rental.

Bethea said the initiative aims to spread Internet access to more of the estimated 100 million Americans who don’t have access to broadband, and the 62 million who don’t have any Internet access at all.

“We know that digital literacy is so vitally important,” said Bethea.

Bethea unveiled the new effort Thursday at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting, alongside state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.

James said he heard about the program from a fellow lawmaker and approached Cox about promoting it to his constituents. He said schools increasingly are communicating with parents over the Internet about how their children are doing.

“A lot of our parents don’t have access at home,” he said. “A lot of our parents are spending time in the library.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is planning a promotional push for the program when the 2013-14 school year begins in August.

Initially, though, the program will promoted in a handful of Baton Rouge public schools. These are schools that are in James’ district or, in the case of McKinley Middle and McKinley High, schools he attended. The other schools are Greenbrier, LaBelle Aire, Merrydale, Park Forest and Twin Oaks elementary schools, and Park Forest Middle and Belaire High schools.

Cox is planning a sign-up event May 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Instructional Resource Center, 1022 S. Foster Drive, next to the School Board office.

The program is available to families with children in school that qualify for a free lunch, but not for those with slightly higher incomes who qualify only for a reduced-price, Bethea said.

A family of four with an annual income of $29,965 qualifies for a federally subsidized free lunch at school.

Cox has a couple of its own requirements: To be eligible, a family can’t have been a Cox Internet subscriber in the past 90 days and can’t have an unpaid bill from Cox.

After the two-year period expires, the monthly bill will increase to Cox’s “Starter High Speed Internet” rate, which is now $19.95 a month, Bethea said.

In addition to the Internet service, digital training sessions will be available at local libraries, Bethea said, and Connect2Compete is selling refurbished computers — $150 for a desktop and $199 for a laptop — through a company called Good PC.

Those interested in signing up can go to or callConnect2Compete toll free at (855) 222-3252 after Tuesday when the number is activated.