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Comcast’s Welfare Internet: 1.5Mbps for $9.95 a Month… If You Qualify… for 3 Years

One of the conditions Comcast had to agree to as part of its multi-billion dollar deal to acquire NBC-Universal was to throw a bone to some of America’s poorest households by offering discount Internet access for three years.  Comcast agreed and is rolling out low-speed Internet at a discount in time for the upcoming school year.

“Comcast Internet Essentials,” is the ultimate in bare-bones Internet.  For $9.95 a month, customers in Comcast service areas will get 1.5Mbps download speed and 384kbps upstream, with the usual 250GB usage limit Comcast applies to everyone.  But not just anyone can qualify.  Comcast has limited the program only to households with at least one child qualified to receive free (not discounted) school lunches under the National School Lunch Program.  So if your income-challenged household doesn’t include children, or you pay for your own school lunches, you are out of luck.

Comcast is also denying access to anyone who has had any level of Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days.  So if you’ve scraped enough money together to pay Comcast’s regular prices, the cable company is not going to give you a break.

If your kids graduate or are removed from the school lunch program, your inexpensive Internet service goes with it.

If you have been late on a Comcast bill, or owe the company for unreturned cable equipment, you also cannot receive the service.

The company will also provide vouchers for a “discounted laptop” for $150 — a computer that turns out to be a netbook.  At least it comes with Windows 7 (Starter Edition).

Comcast requires would-be customers to start with an application, available by phone, at 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376).  The merger approval agreement required Comcast to provide the service for three years.  Guess what happens to it when the requirement ends.  No matter — Comcast is turning the entire affair to its public relations advantage, showing up on various media outlets promoting the program as if Comcast thought it up on its own.  Not quite.  We have three questions:

  1. How many consumers would sign up for the service if Comcast offered $9.95 1.5Mbps to anyone who wanted it?
  2. How many might consider downgrading their current service for something less expensive, especially if they are only interested in occasional web browsing?
  3. Will the “digital divide” Comcast decries today be magically gone at the end of three years, when they quietly drop the program?

KRIV-TV in Houston explores the various conditions Comcast places on its Internet Essentials program.  (2 minutes)

Comcast’s David Cohen appeared on CNN promoting Comcast’s Internet Essentials as a way to “bridge the digital divide” — a disparity of access American ISP’s originally created with their excessively high-priced Internet services. (3 minutes)

Currently there are 5 comments on this Article:

  1. Duffin says:

    Oh,Comcast…you spoil us.

  2. Alex Perrier says:

    If i could sign up for this, then i would in a heartbeat! The cost is 3.98¢ per GB, which is still giving them a little profit. What a deal!

    The reason i say this is because Bell’s Essential Plus costs $30 alone, $20 with TV, and they only give 2 GB. That’s quite the limbo game!

    Of course, Comcast wants a lot of money, so only families with at least one “free school lunches” child gets this rate. Happy for them. 🙂

  3. bettyboop says:

    to the writer:

    from the start of this article you have acted like a bum. in the title you called it WELFARE, then in the first paragraph you called it DISCOUNT INTERNET. you should have been calling it discount internet from the start but you were being ugly. you also made other little smart comments about this promotion like the poor people getting a “bone” thrown to them and how the internet is “bare- bones” because it’s of a lower speed. well this same internet was being offered at $15 (A WHOLE $5 MORE-me being sarcastic) from comcast to GET THIS!!!! people that weren’t considered to be getting “welfare internet” with the same low speed. i didn’t see anyone calling it welfare and bare-bones then. it was just another option for people to sign up for. so to me it really sounds like you have a real issue with people that may not be financially in a good place at the moment. and yes they may only be offering it to them for 3 years but hey it’s more than what other internet providers may be giving them and who cares who’s idea it was as long as they are helping them. in three years their financial burdens may be over with anyway and they can afford to get whatever they want. and them being offer a laptop is also a good thing even if it is a NETBOOK.it’s better than nothing. get over yourself, who knows it could be you losing your job and needing that discount internet one day so you can continue to write wack articles in hopes of landing another job.

    • Duffin says:

      Seriously, how hard is it to type properly? You may have a perfectly reasonable argument (you don’t, but let’s pretend), but without the use of proper punctuation and capitalization, you just look like an uneducated person, especially when you just throw in random all-caps words.

      This promotion is a joke. The only people who can get it are people who’s kids are on free lunches. What about those poor people with no kids? Screw them, I guess. Oh, if the families start making enough to get off the free lunches, but are still under the poverty line? Well, screw them too. Managed to pay for Comcast in the past 90 days on a regular plan? You’re out of luck. That’s the point. Only a VERY SMALL subsection of the poor population can even get this so-called ‘deal’. Know what you’re talking about before you go on a rant, accusing people of being biased.

  4. da1beast says:

    how do i sing up?

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