It’s called ‘Internet Essentials’ and if you have at least one child receiving free school lunches, you may qualify to sign up for what’s essentially cable service provider Comcast’s $9.95-a-month Internet plan. That’s a savings of about $20 a month, since it’s the same plan, feature-wise, as the one everyone else pays $30 a month for.
In the bargain: no price increases, no activation fees, no equipment rental fees, just $9.95 a month (okay, before tax, but three out of four’s not bad). What’s more, Comcast’s offering a “low-cost” computer at signup for $149.99 and “free Internet training…available online, in print and in person.” If that sounds like a sweetheart deal, it pretty much is.
Comcast’s “affordable Internet” offering was already available in select parts of the country, but today they’ve extended the plan to every one of the 39 states (as well as the District of Columbia) in which they offer service.
Despite the roughly two-thirds discount, the plan looks to be good business for Comcast, too. Their Internet Essentials site refers to a Pew Research Center statistic that claims “only 45% of those with annual households incomes under $30,000 have broadband at home.” And then there’s the related claim that nearly 70% of Americans have broadband at home, throwing the disparity between haves and have-nots into stark relief. How many households are there in the U.S.? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, just shy of 113 million. That leaves about 34 million households up for grabs, a number Comcast just grabbed an aggressive 39-state stake in.
Is Comcast enjoying kickbacks (say, government-related) or other financial benefits for the plan? That’s unclear at this stage, though the company’s running a promotional video on its site that includes Delaware Governor Jack Markell endorsing the service in several clips, and at one point calling it “a terrific opportunity.”
The benefits of getting high-speed Internet into the hands of everyone are inarguable, but let’s not forget Comcast’s already the largest cable operator and Internet provider in the U.S. That, and the company has a survey-based reputation, deserved or no, for bottoming out customer satisfaction lists. The plan’s saving grace: Comcast’s pledge not to increase the price (though for how long—obviously not “forever”—isn’t clear) or tack on additives like activation and equipment fees.