Comcast Is Speeding up Internet Essentials – Its Discounted Internet Service for the Poor

Posted by at 2:29 pm on August 4, 2015

Comcast is speeding up and expanding a discounted Internet service that was created to get more low-income people online.

Comcast created the program four years ago as a condition of government approval of its purchase of NBCUniversal. The service costs $10 a month, a quarter of Comcast’s promotional price for a slightly faster Internet speed.

But critics have said the service, Comcast called Internet Essentials, was too slow and its reach too limited.

The latest upgrade doubles the current speed to up to 10 megabits per second. That lets you watch online video but is still below the benchmark for broadband, 25 megabits, set by the Federal Communications Commission.

Internet Essentials had been limited to families of children who would qualify for the government’s discounted school lunch program. Now Comcast is testing a program for low-income seniors, too.

“The increasing of the speed is a step in the right direction,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente, a Latino advocacy group that had fought Comcast’s failed proposal to merge with Time Warner Cable. “The real test will be in assuring that actual families will benefit from this.”

In a report last year, the California Emerging Technology Fund, a non-profit that advocates for broadband adoption, said signing up for Internet Essentials was a “long and cumbersome” process that can take up to three months.

Comcast said Tuesday that more than 500,000 households have been Internet Essentials customers. That’s up from 350,000 households about a year ago. About 20 percent of eligible households have signed up.

Other changes Comcast announced Tuesday included adding a free Wi-Fi router so families can connect their smartphones and other devices to a home network.

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