CAN'T AFFORD Internet, but know your kids need it to succeed in school? Comcast yesterday announced an offer that could help - six months of free Internet service for qualifying city dwellers.

It's a special promotion for the otherwise low-cost ($9.95 a month) Internet Essentials (IE) program that's offered to low-income families. Students from public, parochial, charter and home schools are all eligible.

The offer of free Internet is limited, though. Applications must be submitted and approved by March 18, according to Comcast.

The deal came up in a review with Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen of his pet project. Cohen said that IE has signed up 1.2 million people - 300,000 families - nationwide since its May 2011 launch, although some subscribers have since dropped the program.

Any attendee of a school where 70 percent of students get free or subsidized lunches is now eligible, officials said.

By the end of last year, 9,000 Philadelphia metro-area families had signed up for IE, compared with about 5,000 in 2012. Cohen said the city was one of the "most improved" in enrollment, although not in the top tier of participating cities (spanning 39 states and the District of Columbia), which are being awarded "Gold Medal Recognition Program" grants from Comcast to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones.

Mayor Nutter also underscored the importance of programs like IE, saying that the initiative is in keeping with President Obama's new "ConnectED" agenda aimed at bringing broadband access and wireless to 99 percent of America's schools within five years.

To apply for the program, visit or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish speakers can visit or call 1-855-765-6995.