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Low Income $9.95 Internet Coming to Time Warner, Cox, and Charter… If You Qualify

Phillip Dampier November 9, 2011 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Cox, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband 16 Comments

Genachowski

The cable industry is expanding so-called “lifeline Internet service” to more households in an effort to combat what a government agency calls “a persistent digital divide.”

Next spring, Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Charter Communications will launch low-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month for two years.  The offers will echo Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which launched earlier this year as part of a deal with the government to win approval of the cable company’s merger with NBC-Universal.

The Federal Communications Commission calls the effort “Connect to Compete,” and suggests the public-private initiative will help rural Americans and low-income minorities get affordable Internet access. A study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found just 55% of black households and 57% of Hispanics currently subscribe to broadband.  More than 72% of Caucasian households and more than 81% of Asian homes use broadband by comparison.  The rural southern states of Mississippi (52%), Arkansas (52%) and Alabama (56%) have the lowest broadband penetration rates in the country.  In contrast, more than 80% of Utah residents have broadband in their homes.

“In this difficult economy, we need everyone to be working together on solutions,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. “Broadband is a key to economic and educational opportunity and these kinds of commitments to close the digital divide are powerful.”

But not every poverty-stricken American will qualify for the discount programs.

Cable operators are following Comcast’s lead, restricting access to families with at least one school age child enrolled in the free school lunch program.  Customers must not have existing broadband service during the last 90 days and customers with past due balances cannot sign up.  Don’t have children or fell behind on your cable bill?  No discount Internet for you.

Pilot programs will be launched by each operator in around a dozen cities total starting next spring, with plans to roll programs out nationally by the start of the 2012 school year.  Broadband speeds, usage limits, and other fees were not disclosed.  Comcast’s Internet Essentials operates at 1.5Mbps with upload speeds up to 384kbps.

Comcast’s program sells a netbook computer loaded with Windows 7 Starter Edition for around $150.  The $250 computers expected to be provided by Microsoft will include Windows 7 Home Premium operating system and Microsoft Office.  An additional vendor will sell refurbished computers to interested program participants for around $150.

The program will primarily reach urban residents who cannot afford current Internet service plans that are sold for $40-45 a month.  Rural residents are unlikely to benefit much because most cable operators do not deliver service in rural areas.

CenturyLink announced its own version of discounted DSL Internet in October to sell for $9.95 a month, but with numerous “gotcha” fees and surcharges.

One group unlikely to take advantage of the program: older householders, particularly those ages 65 and older, where just 45% have broadband at home.  The biggest reason the rest don’t?  They don’t believe they need the Internet at any cost.

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Alex Perrier
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Alex Perrier

$150 and $250 computers are an excellent and inexpensive way to get online, but the regular price for a netbook and laptop, respectively, are $200 and $300 in Canada. Sometimes we have sales that take another $50 off these laptops. If i want to buy a computer, i’d go to the computer store, not via an ISP like Bell or Rogers. These $10 Internet plans should be offered to everyone, and at slightly higher speeds like 2 Mbit/s down and ½ Mbit/s up. There are so many restrictions, such as “you must be part of a free lunch program”, that… Read more »

MojaveMike
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MojaveMike

This structure enables them to provide it to everyone who doesn’t have high speed already. How? Where I live, Santa Ana, California every child is in the free breakfast and lunch program regardless of eligibility. http://www.limitstogrowth.org/articles/2010/09/05/santa-ana-schools-free-food-for-all-kiddies/
So you’re disqualified if you already have broadband, but you’re in if you don’t. Except for the children qualification. My wife and I decided to not have children and we constantly suffer the discriminatory practices favoring families who decide to have children if they can afford them or not even if they’re unfit parents.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

It should be like the lifeline telephone program, if your household income is below a certain margin or under certain government assistance, then you should qualify.

AK
Guest

There are already some companies taking pre-orders and some are actually beginning to install services – Direct TV Broadband (888) 750-2908

MojaveMike
Guest
MojaveMike

It seems only fair and logical that since Internet is deemed so important, people who are already subscribed to a cable or satellite television service should not be eligible for this freebie. After all, television is not essential (I don’t watch anything but an occasional football game) and anything beneficial it offers is also available on the Internet. I’d love to hear the rebuttal on this point.

Suzan Oliver
Guest
Suzan Oliver

Doesn’t seem fair to be to be excluded from this program just because I do not have children. I am low income and would really benefit from this service when it is offered. Thanks! I signed with Cox Cable for two years with a freeze on my account as far as fees go but once this expires you can bet I’ll find services elsewhere!

AK
Guest

Other companies are offering similar services without the same stringent rules about having kids on free lunch programs. Direct TV has an offer posted at lowincomeinternet.com
or you can call directly (888) 750-2908

nataliegeisselhardt
Guest
nataliegeisselhardt

I Called Time Warner Cable in Raleigh, N.C. For the free lunch Internet they longer offer it & told me,I was the first 1 to call about it it need to be advertised so people will know about it. Comcast does not offer it in my Area of Raleigh,I think Comcast need to provide to all the Raleigh Area family’s Especially in the 27604 zipcodes as well as the 27601 & 27606 zipcodes

Kimberly
Guest
Kimberly

With these restrictions this program is not going to be able to help those who are really in need. I home school my special needs daughter, currently have Lifeline telephone, and am sacrificing everything in order to maintain an overpriced (increasing at least twice a year) internet connection in my home for my child’s schooling. And I DON’T qualify? So…….I’d have to enroll my daughter in public school (which means she’d be required to attend for an entire semester because her home schooling spot would be lost, and most likely not regained) in order for her to qualify for free… Read more »

Kimberly
Guest
Kimberly

And before anyone gets themselves in an uproar, I do not have cable TV or any other “extras”. I sacrifice much to give my daughter the best possible learning opportunities. Having internet is essential to her schooling, so I do currently have that. 🙂

Nina
Guest
Nina

Stop complaining so much if it’s not for you than move on. But don’t bad mouthing the program because it’s not enough help for you. I am sure it works for thousands of other families. It is not their fault your daughter needs special help which I am sure you can find like a lot of mothers with special children have. These programs are not there to take all your financial troubles away they are there for a little help and if you have to jump thru hoops well so be it because a little help is better than none… Read more »

Gary
Guest
Gary

Nina, thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings out there.. I could not have said it any better!! Thank you again for standing up for the people who “needs” programs like this. Have a great day 🙂

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