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The Internet Technology

Comcast Launches Program For Low-Income Families 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the internet-for-the-people dept.
wasimkadak writes "Comcast rolled out its Internet Essentials program nationwide today, offering low-income families in its service territory $10/month Internet connections and access to $150 computers. Any family with at least one child who qualifies for the free lunch program at public schools can subscribe to a low-speed (1.5Mbps) Comcast Internet connection for $9.95 a month. Comcast guarantees that it won't raise the price and offers the plan without equipment rental or activation fees. Subscribers also cannot have 'an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment,' and they can't have had Comcast Internet in the last 90 days."
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Comcast Launches Program For Low-Income Families

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  • Unfortunately now I can't pay the elec^C^C^C NO CARRIER

    • The program was actually launched a while ago, for some reason websites felt the need to revisit it.
      • The program was actually launched a while ago, for some reason websites felt the need to revisit it.

        Perhaps because the program was launched only in certain areas? Perhaps because this is the "Nationwide" launch for those outside the pilot areas?

    • by antdude (79039)

      You still need power for dial-up modems. :)

      • You'd need some voltage-conversion circuitry, and the ringer equivalence number would be stratospheric; but you might be able to get away with powering the modem, or even the entire computer, directly from the POTS line. For a few seconds. Until you tripped a protective mechanism or Ma Bell's telco ninjas came for you...
  • Because unemployed or low-income adults without kids wouldn't have any use for the internet to look for a job or something, right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You had to know some would complain about not getting the same handout. The reason people give these benefits to kids is because many of the low-income adults are too old to learn new tricks, you hate to see the children suffer, and frankly there is some hope the kids may turn out better than their parents at being able to hold a job.

      I do not think that all people who are low income are lazy do nothings, but I can't separate those who have just down on their luck, and those who like to take the government d

      • It's not charity to entice people to buy Comcast's services.
      • by Sloppy (14984)

        You had to know some would complain about not getting the same handout.

        That's the problem with handouts. The disadvantaged get all the advantages!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Since you don't have daycare issues, go to the library...or the unemployment agency.

      Seriously, get a grip you whiner.

    • Let us say a private company wants to give away its product to the product to the poor and needy. What’s the best way to do this?

      Should you hand over last year’s tax return? Not only is it invasive, but many poor people don’t even need to file.

      What about the “young adult” (mid 30s) who is still living at home. Should the parents, who may be rich, get cheap internet via their child?

      So they are using the school lunch program as a proxy. It’s easy to show poverty without bei

  • by chihowa (366380) * on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:38PM (#37471096)

    The last paragraph of the linked article mentions that they had no choice but to do this:

    Though Comcast no doubt loves children and cares deeply about the digital divide, its Internet Essentials program was also a part of the conditions under which it was allowed to buy NBC earlier this year. The company pledged to reach 2.5 million low income households with high speed Internet for less than $10 a month, and to sell some sort of computer for $150 or less.

    • To be fair, from what I hear it was a condition that Comcast themselves offered. Of course, one could then go ahead and say that they had no choice but to offer such a program in order to gain approval for the deal in the first place, so I guess in the end it's a moot point.
      • At any rate, it's not as if they're losing out. More customers, more total profit, and good PR. Something says we should have made harsher demands on them than "expand your market share."
        • by jfengel (409917)

          It may improve their bottom line, but probably not all that much. A $10 connection is at most $25 million, a rounding error for a company that has $45 billion in revenue.

          And that doesn't include the cost of providing that service: bandwidth, cable maintenance, user support phone calls, etc. If the $10 includes a cable modem, then their profit margin is going to be razor thin. (It's kinda skeezy if $10 turns into $15 or $20 through fees, taxes, and "optional" services.)

          It's more about PR; even if this end

    • The last paragraph of the linked article mentions that they had no choice but to do this:

      Do you think a poor family that is getting $10/month broadband (1.5/384) cares that it was part of a merger deal? The upshot is that millions of lower income families are going to get internet -- that's a Good Thing(TM).

      • by mikkelm (1000451)

        I think the people who disagree with Comcast's abusive monopolies and the contempt they show towards their customers care that it was part of a merger deal, and not corporate philanthropy.

      • The upshot is that millions of lower income families are going to get internet -- that's a Good Thing(TM).

        It was bad enough when they let the students in, and frankly by your UID you're old enough to know better.

      • 384 kb/s is not broadband. I don't care who you talk to. It just isn't.
    • by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:57PM (#37471302) Journal
      The same thing happened when AT&T merged with BellSouth. The FCC made them provide DSL for $20/month. [cnet.com]
    • Is it really necessary to attribute human emotions to corporations? Some people who work at Comcast probably care very deeply and others couldn't care less. The point is, they're doing it. The end result is what I think we'd all identify as a 'good thing'.

  • Support governmental cable. When Comcast has the monopoly, you pay!

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      Ha! Government run services. In the United States. Good luck.

      • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:47PM (#37471194)

        If you think it's expensive now, wait till it's free...

        • I meant the sewer service.
          Oh, wait again.

          Well I'm sure that there's some utility service that the city runs that SOMEONE will find objectionable and claim that they (and 1,000 of their closest neighbors) can do cheaper or more effectively.

          Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

      • Government is good at infrastructure services. They are bad at innovation, and content.

        Corporations are bad at infrastructure but good at innovation and content.

        A Government Internet Connection will probably reach most Americans and have great up time, and really wouldn't cost us too much more and probably a lot less. However they may not innovate and in 5 - 10 years we will be stuck with a very slow useless connection. Or they will try to force (more) the content we can and cannot get. FCC for the Inter

        • by geekoid (135745)

          "Government is good at infrastructure services. They are bad at innovation, and content.

          Corporations are bad at infrastructure but good at innovation and content.

          Absolutely true.

          I would add - The government is a great driver of innovation.

          Government Internet would not be like TV, and there wouldn't be an FCC. Different eras,. different intent.
          If it's like many other infrastructural project, we would get tremendous bandwidth, and low price. It would all be engineered to work together and be upgrade able. How

      • what is wrong with each county/city/local whatever having the rights to the lines/cables/ducts and leasing out the bandwidth to companies like comcast/att/verizon to sell service? then we could pick and choose what we want based on package plans and deals? Isn't that the whole crux of having everything neutral? I think that local government with responsible oversight > federal government. Why did local municipalities not use those lines that they could lease out to help pay for local infrastructure inste
      • by glodime (1015179)

        Seems to work in a number of municipalities where the courts allow it. See: http://www.muninetworks.org/ [muninetworks.org]

        Some variations that may be better in some locations:
        Municipally owed cables or conduits that independent organizations can lease access to provide internet service.
        Mutual (cooperative) ownership of the cable and or internet service provider by customers and possibly employees.

        • why wouldn't any court allow it? There is no way that you can argue that comcast owns the lines in my city - especially since the taxpayers paid for it.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      With Comcast, I pay for the internet and cable I use. With a government run cable/internet, I pay for what I use, and what my neighbor uses, and what the guy down the street uses. If I decide not to use it, I still have to pay for it. No thanks.
      • by blueg3 (192743)

        Just like government-run water, sewer, and electricity, right?

        In this town, our municipal trash collection is pay-per-use as well, actually.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ByOhTek (1181381)

        And other people pay for what you use.
        And theres a large scale for economies of scale.

        And, oh, with a commercial, you pay for what other people use also!

        Example: Lets say I use 80GB/month down and 60GB/month up.
        My neighbors with the same plan use only 60GB/month down and 5GB/month up.

        We pay the same, but I use more, so in fact, since all the paid money goes for the ISPs backbone connection, they are in part, paying for the infrastructure for some of my connection.

        But, since it is a company doing it, I guess

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Except it's cheaper and better.

        You're like the people that bought lower grade, poorly made tea leave from the black market for more money then higher quality teas from EITC, because there was a minor tax on the EITC tea to support safe shipping.

        Myopic, selfish, Idiocy.

    • Normally I'd be the last to trot out any support for a greedy, incompetent corporation like Comcast, but... hey...

      Is bread and circuses from tax dollars really a better idea than bread and circuses from a profit-making entity?

      Oh, wait, it's just circuses. No bread. Or jobs.

      Carry on then! Let them eat cake!

  • Wow, Comcast is a generous, community oriented company that just wants to help people. I feel all warm and fuzzy.
    • That 250GB bandwidth cap sure makes me fuzzy ;)
      • Not at the rate Comcast's prices have been skyrocketing.

        I recently moved from an area serviced by Time Warner to an area serviced by Comcast. The set of services I bought from each (lowest cable package with HD/DVR and consumer grade of cable internet) came in right around $100 with Time Warner, and when I cancelled my service from Comcast last year they had jacked the rates up to almost $150 (both figures are after taxes and fees).

        I know there is a geographic component to this, but Comcast sets the pricing

        • when I cancelled my service from Comcast last year they had jacked the rates up to almost $150

          You can get it for $100/mo from Comcast but you have to call and play their game every year when your "promotional package" expires. It's actually their business model to make you threaten to cancel every year to keep your rates from going up.

      • At 1.5 mbps, can you even reach it? According to WolframAlpha, the theoretical maximum is less than 500GB. I doubt in real life you can reach anything close to that.

        In other news, for 15 Euros ($20) / month I can have 30mbps, plus 100MB/month for 3G. And it's not a special-offer-for-poor-people.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          "In other news, for 15 Euros ($20) / month I can have 30mbps, plus 100MB/month for 3G. And it's not a special-offer-for-poor-people."

          That's a European plan of some kind right? How is that not a "special-offer-for-poor-people."

  • How elegant... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:41PM (#37471124) Journal
    A revenue maximizing price-discrimination tactic and a PR coup that should keep those meddlesome regulators from breathing down their duopolist-at-best necks... Plus, the odds are good that at least some of your customers will feel more shafted by the fact that nasty, undeserving, poor people are getting low prices than by the fact that those prices only look low because all the other prices are so high.

    Comcastic work, boys.
    • Yep now they just have to find a way to charge wealthier people more for the same bits - up to the point where the person might be wealthy enough to afford political power, that is.

      • This program appears to do just that(in addition to fulfilling their NBC merger requirements at what is likely a fairly low cost). Depending on the area, you can't get that particular internet tier, if they offer it unbundled at all, for less than $20/month and sometimes rather more.

        In addition to generally high prices and tepid speeds, there is really a pretty gigantic hole toward the bottom of the ISP market: even in densely settled areas with mature infrastructure buildouts, it can be pretty tricky to
        • it can be pretty tricky to find anything that doesn't have at least a $15 base price

          How low do you think it can really go in meatspace? That $15/mo probably represents electricity, billing, one or two phone calls a year, and replacing some infrastructure every several years. Plus maybe a few bucks a year into a 'shared pool' to deal with a lightning strike that requires a full local rebuild.

          It's already about the same cost as a pizza, or a movie and popcorn. Maybe lunch for two at McDonald's if you sprin

    • by Amouth (879122)

      what i love is not having Comcast net service for 90 days.. so if they have net access due to need but can barely afford it - they can't drop down to the lower rate which suits their cash flow.. unless they go without for 3 months showing that it isn't needed and rather a luxury to them.. basically screwing over people who need it.

      and as people say no one "needs" a net connection - but hey no one needs anything really

      • Before any of you jump all over me, I want you to think about this for a moment (and I'm being sincere). Most likely, this program is aimed at latino and black communities. Historically they rank the highest group of unemployed and last to actually depend on Internet based technologies and services. If anything, this low priced service offering has the potential to bridge the "digital divide". But that's more of a cultural preference than one strictly of cost within that demographic, so I'm not entirely con

        • My suspicion is that, if Comcast thought the 90-day rule wouldn't be relevant, they wouldn't have imposed it...

          Given that this is an (approximately) value-rational, profit-seeking entity attempting to fulfill an obligation attached to a merger deal at the lowest cost, it seems only reasonable to suspect that every term and condition of the offer is either obligatory(as in the case of the price) or designed to reduce the number of takers(90-day requirement, no outstanding comcast bills requirement, househ
          • The 90-day requirement seems aimed at a demographic that doesn't already have internet access. If you're poor and already have internet access, Comcast will assume you'll still pay the current rate and/or you've already budgeted your finances around it. No point it reducing profit margins in their eyes. The rest of the requirements definitely fits the profile of low-income too. Specifically in the area of reducing risk as they disproportionately laps in on-time bill payment. Sometimes going over 60 days and

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          If anything, this low priced service offering has the potential to bridge the "digital divide".

          I guess my big thought with this 'digital divide' is....So What?

          I mean..when did internet connectivity become a 'basic right'? Is it helpful? Sure. Is it nice and educational? Sure. Is it a necessity of life or necessary to function in society? I have to say no.

          If someone doesn't think they need it...well, so the fuck what?

          Some people just don't seem to want to integrate more into society as it is today...to

  • by DanTheManMS (1039636) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:43PM (#37471156)
    As mentioned before, the launch isn't exactly new, and it was a provision of the NBC/Comcast merger. Nevertheless, it has gotten more attention than usual in the past day or two. Here's an alternative viewpoint, heavily biased against Comcast but still worth reading (at least in my opinion): http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Comcast-Highlights-10-Broadband-in-DC-116216 [dslreports.com]
  • Comcast guarantees that it won't raise the price

    This is an unreasonable expectation given that the US monetary system has inflation. Eventually they would really have to raise prices or end up losing too much money.

    • Comcast guarantees that it won't raise the price

      This is an unreasonable expectation given that the US monetary system has inflation. Eventually they would really have to raise prices or end up losing too much money.

      The inflation rate is an average. As technology improves, many things decrease in cost faster than the currency declines toward worthlessness. The cost of backhaul for a 1.5Mb service is one of those things. Cable maintence: probably not. So in the forseable future where 1.5Mb/s cable internet is actually useful and desireable, I see no reason why Comcast can not keep their promise. If the Dollar is allowed to sink to it's proper level against the Yuan and we get into hyper inflation then, of course,

    • The merger consent deal only required them to do this for three years(not 3 years per subscribing household, 3 years, clock starts ticking toward the point where they needn't offer it anymore). It also excludes anyone who has had comcast service in the last 90 days, or owes comcast any money or hardware from past service, or doesn't meet the income criteria...

      Even if they are losing money on these accounts(which is by no means a given), the time and population restrictions on the offer should put a prett
    • by he-sk (103163)

      Not if the pace of technological progress outpaces inflation. IOW, in a country where productivity keeps rising such a deal will most likely make them money in the long term until the cost of supporting an outdated technology outweighs the income from those contracts. At which point they can simply upgrade you.

      E.g. when DSL was taking off in Germany, most DSL providers would offer you an upgrade which doubled the speed of your internet connection without raising the price. They got a renewed contract out of

  • by MrL0G1C (867445) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @03:03PM (#37471370) Journal

    and they can't have had Comcast Internet in the last 90 days.

    So they don't really give a crap about children or poverty, they're just trying to grab a few of their competitors customers.

  • by sarbonn (1796548) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @03:06PM (#37471406) Homepage Journal
    While I'll never qualify for this, I still find myself having to criticize Comcast for doing everything possible to avoid helping as many people as they can. The very last line of the stipulation is what ruins it for me, when they state: "and they can't have had Comcast Internet in the last 90 days." If people qualify for it because they NEED it, stop doing everything possible to keep people from being able to qualify for it. Having had Comcast in the last 90 days doesn't somehow make someone who is on the list of those in poverty from being any less poor. Just give them the damn benefit like everyone else who falls into the "need" demographic. Yeah, I know no one really "needs" it, but if they're going through and pretending to be helpful, at least be helpful.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Dont NEED it?

      Try applying for a job without the internet. Cant be done as all HR people are lazy as hell.
      Very soon you will need internet access as much as needing a telephone. Most executives orgasm at the though of firing all CSR's and require all payments and support to go through the internet.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)

        Dont NEED it?

        Try applying for a job without the internet.

        Public libraries

        • by drwho (4190)

          Not all libraries have internet, and if they do, it's often broken, slow, or there's not enough computers for everyone. Computers at libraries are often full of viruses, both the digital type and the organic type. I am not saying that libraries are useless in this regard, but they leave a lot to be desired.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          so you use the libraries internet then.

    • by uncqual (836337)
      If someone currently has Comcast internet access, they are somehow paying big bucks for the service so they obviously think they can afford it.

      If the goal is to get service to those who otherwise couldn't afford it, this restriction seems reasonable. There are obviously corner cases (loss of job, death of primary wage earner etc) where someone's situation changes suddenly.

      The restriction also is fairly easy to work around for many people by dropping Comcast for 91 days and either doing without or rely
  • There is a requirement that you have a child, if you don't then they don't want you.
    At comcast we feel that families without children are a scourge of humanity and should be eradicated....

    I am betting they are getting a government kickback thus the child requirement.

  • I'm paying way more than $10 a month for it though.

  • by JMZero (449047) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @03:37PM (#37471686) Homepage

    So this is a new thing, it's optional, and it will probably bring the Internet to a reasonable number of disadvantaged children who currently don't have it.

    That seems like a good thing.

    Now I understand they are doing this as part of a previous deal, and that they could have done more, and that they still have horrible service or whatever. But this is still quite good news. I think this will really help some people - possibly really change some lives for the better - and it will help more people if the news gets around well.

  • by drwho (4190) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @04:24PM (#37472206) Homepage Journal

    We almost had something, with the various community wifi programs, in varying amounts of formality and size, happening around the country. People who couldn't afford the $40+ per month for broadband and didn't need all that speed were sharing access points, and it was mostly good (except which RIAA/MPAA came knocking). Now, in comcast land, the impetus will be crushed for those parents with no money, to get out and do something technical for their community. Oh well, I should look on the bright side, that means that they can share the connection they have without needing to press for cash (much). Too bad you have to have children to use it. It seems to me that such discount plans should be available regardless of whether one has a child. Single people need to hunt for jobs, apply for foodstamps, improve their computer skills, and find ways to fill the empty hopeless hours, just as much as parents do.

  • Off topic perhaps, but why are we still rewarding people for having kids? I.e., why is this contingent on you having a child? I don't see the connection, no pun intended.

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