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Comcast Gives 6 Months Free Internet To Poor and Unpaid Bill Amnesty 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-some-internet dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about a controversial Comcast program designed to give internet access to the poor that just got a little better. After complaints about a program that offers cheap Internet service to poor people, Comcast today announced it will provide "up to six months" of free Internet to new subscribers and an "amnesty" program for families with unpaid bills. Comcast's Internet Essentials, mandated by the federal government when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, gives $10-per-month Internet service to low-income households with schoolchildren. Critics have argued that the program is too hard to sign up for, that eligibility criteria should be less strict, and that further requirements should be implemented if Comcast is allowed to buy Time Warner Cable.
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Comcast Gives 6 Months Free Internet To Poor and Unpaid Bill Amnesty

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  • by Pollux (102520) <speter AT tedata DOT net DOT eg> on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:39PM (#47602401) Journal

    But after the free six months is up, good luck trying to cancel the service [slashdot.org].

  • Google Fiber (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkain (749283) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:40PM (#47602409) Homepage

    And this is exactly why I wish Google Fiber was deployed in more areas. They have a simple solution: a FREE tier for life.

    https://fiber.google.com/citie... [google.com]

    And as far as the $300 setup fee, I'm not sure about other cities, but Portland is working on subsidies to cover this cost as well, so it is $0 for low income families to have basic 5mbps internet service.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why should Portland be supplying subsidies for this?
      This seems like such a waste of local tax dollars when there are plenty of Russians and Nigerians who have a vested interested in me having a life-long ability to be making outbound E-Mail connections. Why not just let them pay for it?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure Google is your friend, but I'd rather have a solution from my own municipal government that provides the service for us. The internet is a public utility like water, sewer, and given the infrastructure requirements with running fiber, I'd rather it be kept in house.

      Not the exploitative franchising of the cable industry, which just lead to private companies lobbying for the laws that they want, but real systems that are run and operated at home.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We had a municipal fiber in Provo before google. It was terrible. The speeds were all over the place, it was mismanaged, any profit it made was constantly raided as another source of income for other projects. It was so bad that they sold it in entirety to google for $1. Since, its been great. Sure google has issues, but making the internet a utility isn't a silver bullet and has its own share of problems. I also don't want to be charged "per bit". And no Im not downloading TB of data every month, but havin

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Provo was poorly managed, then. I'd hate to see what they did with other city-run utilities.

          I have seen great models of city-run utilities from all over the country, both from the perspective of wholly-owned city utilities, non-profit corp spinoffs and city managed private contracted utilities. The benefit of the spinoff is that the city can't raid the coffers for revenue, and the utility has to be self-sufficient to cover maintenance and charge rates appropriately. The private contract model forces the con

        • by Anonymous Coward

          We had a municipal fiber in Provo before google. It was terrible. The speeds were all over the place, it was mismanaged, any profit it made was constantly raided as another source of income for other projects.

          Then we won't hire the people who ran it, or elect your city officials, or do it like Provo.

          Sure google has issues, but making the internet a utility isn't a silver bullet and has its own share of problems.

          Hiring Google isn't a silver bullet, and has its own share of problems. I'm sure if you listen to Comcast, some of their litany may even be true.

          What we need is to break up this idea of internet "markets" giving comcast and their ilk a bunch of small monopolies.

          I agree with not giving Comcast anything, but you need to break the idea of magic competition fairies existing. There's physical realities that just render that point moot. There's a limit to how many roads you can have, how many cables can be run, and how many pipes dug,

        • by Frobnicator (565869) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @01:28AM (#47604927) Journal

          The biggest problem with iProvo, which the residents didn't usually see, was the lawsuits.

          Back when I lived there from 1999-2003, the mayor was pushing iProvo quite a lot. Many businesses and apartments signed up. The city started their rollout by providing hubs to the various city buildings, the historic library, and they even ran lines to the major traffic control cameras. They hooked up quite a few businesses along the main roads, like the main street plaza was covered from the overpass on the west to the roundabout on the east. University Ave, Freedom Blvd, and 500 West were installed from Orem on the North down to the mall and the Novell campus on the south. They got quite a lot of core infrastructure in place during those years. ...

          ... Then they were sued by basically everybody who had an interested in providing Internet services. As a result of the lawsuits they rolled back to just giving fiber to the city's buildings, to their own infrastructure like traffic cameras, and to some existing contracts. If you attended the city council meetings or watched their broadcasts (yeah, I know, who does that, except I remember it was on channel 17 at the time...) you could have listened to reports on how many million they were spending fighting off Qwest (now CenturyLink), Comcast, and the rest. They provided erratic service largely because the money was frequently redirected to the courts. Existing companies REALLY did not want municipal fiber, and they fought it hard.

          While the mega-corps know they can stomp on a small city like Provo very easily, they were quickly outmatched when Google came in. They stopped the decade-long hemorrhaging of money to lawsuits, so the service became much better.

          Utopia has also been heavily plagued by lawsuits and governmental contracts cancelled mid-deployment. Even the US government (under RUS) contracted out some services and then abandoned it, leaving the fiber network on the hook for over $11M (the lawsuit is still ongoing). People complain and suggest Utopia is mismanaged, and while they have had a few management missteps, their biggest problem has been the many millions of dollars spent trying to fight legal battles against incumbents.

          Even today if you look a bit North up the Wasatch front corridor, Centerville is right now the hotbed of the issue. Comcast and CenturyLink are funding a bunch of signs for anyone who wants them. They're discussing putting municipal fiber in as a tax, complaining that residents shouldn't have to pay because they already have Internet providers. ... conveniently overlooking the fact that the very small tax will provide everybody in the city a minimum fiber to the home connection with 5 megabit if you don't pay for any plan, and 150 megabit or faster if you do pay for a plan, and the plans are far cheaper than either Comcast or CenturyLink.

          Municipal fiber is the future, just like municipal sewer, municipal water, municipal trash, and other city-managed services. The incumbent companies are fighting with all their power and disinformation campaigns to keep their high profit system in place. Just like your Comcast salesmen knocking at the door trying to convince you fast and unlimited is bad, slow and bottlenecked is good, disinformation is really all they can rely on these days.

      • internet is a public utility like water, sewer,

        If you're still lucky enough to have them as 'public utilities' good on you. Because around here they were sold off and privatized a long time ago. And there's jack shit we can do about any of it.

    • by Xicor (2738029)

      they are slowly deploying. we will see it across the country by 2020

  • a bit of a copout (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cardoor (3488091) on Monday August 04, 2014 @04:49PM (#47602483)
    having tutored several underprivileged kids in a large urban environment (and having witnessed how when left to their own devices they used their internet access for NOT educational rich-poor-divide-shrinking stuff, but rather typical time-wasting stuff ) this seems like a poor answer to social responsibility to me for a $139 billion company that is Comcast.

    Without guidance and structure, 'for the children' will go to the lowest common denominator, so basically, they are subsidizing a new generation of kids to grow up addicted to watching 'teen-wolf' on MTV-tube.

    What might actually be nice would to see comcast, oh, i dont know, sponsor after-school computer education programs? Or frankly anything that provides for the real thing that tends to be absent in households that are barely making ends meet - additional educational structure.
    • by SinShiva (1429617)
      Yes, it would be far better they were on the streets rather than in their homes. many a childhood has been wrecked with less than 5mbit. comcast really should be diverting these funds toward boarding schools, eh? if comcast isn't parenting my kids for me, they must be doing it wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am a pretty liberal guy. And I have to agree with the parent. I have also worked with the poor on occasion and cable is like a staple: food, shelter, clothing, cable, water, ....in that order.

      I actually had a guy complain how his children "hadn't had TV in TWO WEEKS!" (the very thick south Georgia accent made it sound very funny)

      I struggled to stifle my laugh because he said in all seriousness. And I bit my tongue from saying, "Maybe it is a GOOD thing and maybe your kids should pick up a book. They have

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is not something unique to the poor. the self-entitlement and lazyness is something you see in all social layers. It is not like you never hear of rich people trying to game the system or outright steal. Giving the poor access to internet means giving them access to all it contains - pointless flash-games for those that would be wasting time hanging on the street, and usefull information for those who before had less access (reading at home vs. traveling to a library). People with a reasonable income n

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          This is some truth to what you say, as human nature is human nature (with variances), but in general, many well-off people are often that way, believe it or not (!) because they are highly motivated, smart, and hard working. Seriously, let's drop that mindset that *all* wealthy people have had it handed to them on a silver spoon, that's no more accurate (decidedly less so in fact) than saying all poor people are bums. There *are* people who work their ass off, and via a combination of hard work, good inves
          • by dave420 (699308)

            You keep using words and phrases like "many", "a lot" and "minority" as if that carries any weight. All you've done is confuse your opinion with reality, and tried to prove a point with it. Weird. I can't even tell if you have a point or not, as you've entirely failed to qualify anything you're talking about.

            After-school programs do sound better, but this is essential. The two are not mutually exclusive, and both would serve the community far greater than either on their own.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          It is not like you never hear of rich people trying to game the system or outright steal.

          Society has laws to punish them when they are caught. Society actively seeks to minimize this behavior. Thats a good thing, of course.

          However, we've all heard the argument that nobody wants to be poor and that there is a social stigma associated with it, and that that is motive enough to help minimize the entitlements given to the poor.

          My observation is that such claims simply arent true in most cases because it isnt just the poorest of the poor that receive these entitlements. Free lunch program for n

      • There is no scarcity of TVs or ability to broadcast shows. Why should poor kids not be able to watch?

        Why do you think you know what is better for others to do, and that you should impose an artificial scarcity to make them behave as you would have them behave?

      • by evilviper (135110)

        I actually had a guy complain how his children "hadn't had TV in TWO WEEKS!" (the very thick south Georgia accent made it sound very funny)

        I struggled to stifle my laugh because he said in all seriousness. And I bit my tongue from saying, "Maybe it is a GOOD thing and maybe your kids should pick up a book. They have them for FREE at your library!"

        The idea that reading books is somehow better, is a lot of ageist, self-loathing and massively wrong-headed dogma.

        TV is a great and edifying device. Leave your TV

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        Social conservatives usually talk out their asses when they talk about the details of the poor

        Social liberals usually talk out their asses when making generalized statements about social conservatives.

        I anecdotally know many social conservatives that provide real relief for the poor on a regular basis, without such complaints. And even those who don't, I don't hear complaining often. Like you said, it's visible and obvious in a few cases. I'd like to find ways to prevent abuse, or at least not encourage it. But at the end of the day I'll take a little abuse if it means providing a lot of actual

    • by Tailhook (98486)

      rather typical time-wasting stuff

      WORLD STAR HIP HOP BOI !!!1

      What might actually be nice would to see comcast

      I've got a better idea. Put Comcast and all other ISPs in the Common Carrier category where they belong, break up Comcast and the rest of the oligopoly ISPs into small, regional companies limited with few exceptions to state lines, outlaw vertical ownership of both media and content, force the now tamed, small ISPs to wholesale their bandwidth to competitors and watch prices for bandwidth collapse to below the $10/month craptastic deal Comcast is supposed to be providing so that

      • by Cardoor (3488091)
        totally agree - though i think the odd's of that happening are slightly less.. not to say it isnt worth agitating for though
    • by evilviper (135110)

      so basically, they are subsidizing a new generation of kids to grow up addicted to watching 'teen-wolf' on MTV-tube.

      Maybe... but like radio, TV and telephones before it, not having internet access is cutting you off from a huge world of invaluable information, even if you only spend 0.1% of your overall time accessing it. It's not as if they're being charged by the hour of by the MByte, so wasting lots of time doesn't cost anything, and doesn't preclude the valuable uses.

      when left to their own devices they

      • by Cardoor (3488091)
        |Maybe... but like radio, TV and telephones before it, not having internet access is cutting you off from a huge world of invaluable information, even if you only spend 0.1% of your overall time accessing it. It's not as if they're being charged by the hour of by the MByte, so wasting lots of time doesn't cost anything, and doesn't preclude the valuable uses.

        wasting lots of time is not a harmless activity - especially for kids, if what said 'wasting' is, is actually indoctrination into the life of becomi
    • by sudon't (580652)

      That's right. Give a kid free internet, he has free internet for six months. Teach a kid how to collect and analyze packets, he has free internet for life.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only way the merger should be approved (and it really shouldn't ever be approved), would be if both Comcast and TIme Warner were to be forced to shed all content creation entities, as well as content distribution entitities.

    ie.

    You can be an internet provider / Cable company

    or

    You can be a content creation entity

    In reality this should be enforced today with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time-Warner as they are.

    It's a conflict of interest to control both content and content delivery channels.

    • I agree, even then it should never be allowed. That would put the majority of American cable subscribers under a single provider, and that's should never have even made it to the table.
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday August 04, 2014 @05:01PM (#47602567)
    It's sorta like the guys at GitMo telling their guests today they get free waterboarding.
    • by sribe (304414)

      It's sorta like the guys at GitMo telling their guests today they get free waterboarding.

      Well, come on, you've got to admit that's more humane than billing them for waterboarding?

  • Did anyone expect Comcast to actually honor the spirit of the low cost Internet Essentials agreement? Hands???
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm not even all that poor and I have it. Your kids just have to qualify for free lunch. It was super simple to set up. One phone call. My bill is 10 bucks a month. As far I I'm concerned they are honoring the agreement. They suck for lots of other reasons, this isnt one of them.

  • If the parents can't afford the service now, why do you tihnk they can in 6 months? Seems petty and short-sighted to me.
  • ...with 5 year contract at %150 the going rate, and a cancellation penalty of death.

    Didn't Comcast just top the list of most hated companies? To beat outfits like Monsanto, you've got to work hard. A press release about charitable works just isn't going to change that.

    • I know you liberals can't be bothered to actually read an article, but come on, the summary is just a few sentences.
      After the six free months, it US $10 / month.

      I've heard that Comcast sucks. If you think they do, you have two choices:
      a) tell people why Comcast sucks
      b) totally make shit up out of thin air, so readers think that people complaining about Comcast are liars and idiots

      • by jthill (303417)
        Umm, please name any skein of human culture not rife with liars and idiots. Focusing on them is, at best, a waste of time. Of course, just one step above the barrel-scraping morons are the raw bigots, who pretend every undesirable characteristic is largely the fault of some group of people Not Like Themselves. Also endemic everywhere.
        • > Umm, please name any skein of human culture not rife with liars and idiots.

          Good point. Just before reading your message, I was dealing with yet another moron hosting company who doesn't know how to copy files. I was curious, so I clicked on their employment page. They're hiring server administrators in California at $16 / hour - less than gas station clerks make. Surprise, for $16 / hour in California they get server admins who are morons.

          And you're right, those aren't liberals, they're Californian

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Not a liberal here.

        Maybe you didn't read this part:

        and that further requirements should be implemented if Comcast is allowed to buy Time Warner Cable.

        Do you understand what this is about? It's a cheap way to try to get past anti-trust laws and head off municipal broadband.

        And I notice that this "article" you speak of doesn't really say anything about the user agreement. It wouldn't be the first time that Comcast posted one set of rates in the press and in advertisement and another on customer bills.

        Give

        • > Give me one reason why anyone would trust Comcast?

          Given that you just lied to us, we certainly wouldn't trust anything else you have to say on the matter. That puts you and Comcast in the same category. We wouldn't believe either one of you.

          Next time, if you don't start out your comments with lies, you can point out who the bad guy is and be believed.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            Given that you just lied to us, we certainly wouldn't trust anything else you have to say on the matter.

            The difference is that I'm not charging you. My lies come for free. Comcast makes you pay for them.

            And I'm not the one pointing out why Comcast sucks. Blame the internet:

            https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

  • Self-aggrandizing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShaunC (203807) on Monday August 04, 2014 @05:37PM (#47602809)

    I'm a Comcast TV and internet subscriber (not really by choice, as in many places it's the only solid option). Over the past few weeks I've seen an ad from, by, and for Comcast promoting this service... over and over and over. It shows a kid in school with some narration about how everything would be better if only he had access to the internet, then he goes home, and imagine that! A Comcast truck is sitting outside his home, hooking up some internet service!

    Comcast loves kids, loves schools, and wants to help all students do research for their education! Yeah, right. This is a very low cost (or free), but also extremely low service plan. You have to be around or below the poverty level to qualify. The local news did a segment recently and the way they presented it, Comcast won't be letting you sign up unless you can prove that you qualify for food stamps and free school lunches. I'm not looking to go into a welfare debate, but living in a city with a fairly high number of section 8 residents, many of the folks who would qualify for the Internet Essentials plan are already paying Comcast for much better services using subsidies from other sources.

    I love the idea of internet access being available to everyone, but don't think for a moment that Comcast is doing this out of some kind of corporate benevolence. It was required the last time they were involved in a giant merger (buying out NBC) and they're finally getting around to promoting it in hopes of their next giant merger (with Time Warner) being approved.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      Perhaps the next discussion we should be having is how are people on food stamps and living in section 8 having cable? Im sure some bleeding heart will tell me its a right and im racist for questioning it though....
      • Some waste, fraud, abuse and improper management happen in any system. Obviously too much is a problem but it is equally as bad to obsess over reaching 100% perfection.

        Simply because they own a TV doesn't indicate a great deal; they could have previously had one, been given one, stole one, etc. It would be difficult and vindictive to make them sell everything they had in order to not starve. There are plenty of pawn shops all over the place so we must have plenty of victims for those vultures... not that

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Monday August 04, 2014 @06:12PM (#47603049) Journal

    From TFS:

    Critics have argued that the program is too hard to sign up for, that eligibility criteria should be less strict, and that further requirements should be implemented if Comcast is allowed to buy Time Warner Cable.

    [Emphasis Added]

    Regardless of Comcast's record of "helping" the poor or any other "requirements" to be levied against Comcast, they should not be allowed to purchase TWC under any circumstances. That would concentrate far too much "last mile" power into too few hands.

    Of course, that's the point so the deal will go through and we'll have another win for regulatory capture.

  • Who is Bill Amnesty? Should I know him?

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