Offering cheap internet service is a powerful tool to boost internet access among low-income customers, but pricing changes alone won’t close the digital divide, according to new research.

“The glass half-full view is that low-cost service can make a big difference,” says Rosston, who is also the director of Stanford’s Public Policy program and coauthor of a working paper on the research. “But the number of low-income households with internet access still lags far behind higher-income households with service. If the goal is to bridge that gap, pricing alone won’t do it and we don’t yet know what will.”

In their study, Rosston and Wallsten looked at the first five years of a groundbreaking program that Comcast launched in 2011 as a regulatory condition of its merger with NBC Universal.

Under the program, called Internet Essentials, households with school-age children eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches were offered $10-a-month broadband service, computers for $150, and training on core functions like web browsing and email.

Rosston and Wallsten conclude that the program netted slightly more than 292,000 new internet subscribers, or about 7% of the 10% increase in internet-connected households.

“Lowering the monthly cost to $10 still didn’t get everybody online,” Rosston says. “We don’t yet know how to get these people online—and it’s not even clear that they want it or would benefit from it.”

What’s more, Rosston points out that market trends could ultimately bring about the solution policymakers have been looking for.

“Since 2015 there have been huge changes in the way people use wireless phones to access the internet and I expect that will continue over the next five years,” Rosston says. “Since most low-income households have wireless phones, these changes will hopefully make internet accessibility even easier for them.”

Read the full article about the digital divide at Futurity.