Wall Street Cheat Sheet

Wall Street Cheat Sheet

Comcast’s ‘Internet Essentials’ Program Needs an Upgrade

By Sam Becker

February 25, 2015

That fact has not been lost on The Consumerist, which recently ran an article spotlighting the fact that Comcast does not — despite its immense profits and near-monopolistic market share — have plans to upgrade its special program for low-income customers. The problem with that, The Consumerist says, is that Comcast originally made the deal to create and maintain said program as a part of its merger with NBC Universal in 2011. By seemingly ignoring that program, Comcast may not be holding up its end of the deal.

The program itself, called Internet Essentials, has a stated mission to bring lower-income residents broadband, access to which is growing more important with each passing year. “Internet Essentials from Comcast offers low-cost Internet service, computer equipment and free digital literacy training to families with at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program,” reads Comcast’s description of the program, which includes home Internet access for a flat rate of about $10 per month and doesn’t feature any fees.

The main issue is that in order for the Comcast-TWC merger to be finalized, it has to clear some final legal hurdles. The issue of the Internet Essentials program and its poor current manifestation is something that may slow that process.

Before the merger gets the go-ahead from the powers that be, the Internet Essentials program, along with some other issues, are being targeted specifically by the California Public Utility Commission. In a brief provided by the commission, it is recommended that Comcast do what it can to not only expand the program but improve it. That means providing additional equipment, bumping up speeds, and perhaps most importantly, expanding the eligibility requirements.

It’s unclear how, or even if, Comcast plans to respond.

But there are signs that the company may comply. Just this past summer, The Washington Post reported that the Internet Essentials program had its eligibility requirements lowered, making it available to even more people than before. There were, naturally, some stipulations, but all in all, it was a positiv