Light Reading

Comcast Goes Big With 'Internet Essentials'

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Following initial launches in markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Hartford, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) went national Tuesday in Washington, D.C., with its Internet Essentials program and its promise to help low-income families afford access to cable modem services.

"We are treating this as the national launch of the program," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen tells Light Reading Cable. He was joined at the launch, held at the Ballou High School, by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Internet Essentials, a voluntary commitment linked to Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal LLC , targets impoverished households with school-age children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the federally assisted National School Lunch Program. Qualified households (PDF) will receive discounted Internet service (1.5Mbit/s down by 364kbit/s up) from Comcast at $9.95 per month, a $149.99 voucher to be used toward the purchase of a PC and access to a free digital literacy training regimen. Acer Inc. and Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) are supplying computer equipment for the program, with Comcast subsidizing part of the cost, Cohen says.

Comcast is also waiving activation and equipment fees and promising not to increase the monthly price for as long as families qualify for the offer. As a standalone service, Comcast's Economy tier, which provides the same speeds as Internet Essentials, runs about $47 per month with the equipment lease included.

In addition to being eligible under the NSLP free school lunch program, families must also live in an area where Comcast offers Internet service, must not have subscribed to that service within the last 90 days and must not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned MSO equipment.

Why this matters
The national rollout fulfills one of several conditions tied to the NBCU deal while also fitting within the aims of the FCC National Broadband Plan.

Comcast has rolled out Internet Essentials in all markets, but says it's too early to say how many kids are signed up for it. Cohen notes that the eligibility process typically takes two to three weeks and many schools have not even been open that long.

Internet Essentials is also a 2.0 version of sorts of a similar program the cable industry launched in 2009. The effort, called Adoption Plus (A+), was to provide free cable modem installations in addition to a 50 percent discount on cable modem service. (See Cable Offers 50% Broadband Discount to School Lunch Bunch.)

"We didn't like the price target of that program," which was about $15, Cohen said, adding that it "was the best the industry could do at the time. We thought the price needed to be $10." Adoption Plus also targeted only at middle school students, so Internet Essentials also takes that commitment a step further by applying to a larger group of eligible families and students.

For more
Read more about Internet Essentials and the FCC National Broadband Plan.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 4:53:04 PM
re: Comcast Goes Big With 'Internet Essentials'

I remember our household Prodigy account was $10/month in the early 1990s. At the time, the cost was significant, not only because that was 20 years ago (when $10 also filled up our gas tanks, by the way), but also because large monthly entertainment subscription fees were not the norm. 

The Comcast program is fantastic. Internet access is too important not to make it available to lower-income households. However, the program also highlights just how much cable has adjusted our expectations around monthly bills in the last two decades. ARPU is at an all-time high, and $10 a month sounds not only reasonable today, but practically laughable compared to standard broadband fees. It's a remarkable attitude shift in a relatively short period of time.

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:53:01 PM
re: Comcast Goes Big With 'Internet Essentials'

That takes me back. Prodigy was my first ISP, started subscribing well before they opened it up to the Web and my user name was something like YT6QIFG, which went well with my screaming 14.4 US Robotics modem.

Also, guess it's smart for Comcast to call this Internet Essentials, rather than Broadband Essentials, since the speed of that tier doesn't meet the FCC's definition of broadband. JB

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:53:00 PM
re: Comcast Goes Big With 'Internet Essentials'

I know this offer is paired with the NBCU deal, as a voluntary condition, so Comcast deserves praise. Here's also a small shout-out to Bernstein Research, which has been tracking the income/broadband equation for about two years. Whie I follow experts who think that expenditures measure poverty more accurately than income (Bernstein relied on income data) Craig Moffett has socialized this issue quite effectively within the industry. Bottom line may come from industry gadfly and Fast Net News editor Dave Burstein, who hit the nail with his head when (last December) he called the Comcast offer "a remarkable move that goes far beyond any previous U.S. program."

From The Founder
Steve Saunders provides an overview of white box networking and introduces a new "slim line" version of the OSI 7-layer model.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
Meet the Architect Behind LinkedIn

12|1|15   |   10:46   |   (0) comments

Steve Saunders speaks with Saikrishna Kotha, who leads LinkedIn's data center infrastructure architecture strategy. With over 400 million users, it's Kotha's job to deliver agility and speed, but also act as a business strategist to develop new ways that LinkedIn can monetize its user base. According to Kotha, LinkedIn runs on a mix of white box and vendor ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Service Gateway Virtual Edition

12|1|15   |   8.29   |   (1) comment

Allot's Jay Klein talks to Steve Saunders about its new Service Gateway Virtual Edition.
Wagner’s Ring
The Business Case for Open Source

11|30|15   |     |   (3) comments

Open source helps companies enhance infrastructure, undermine competitors' advantage and teach collaboration. But there are problems.
Between the CEOs
Centec on Ethernet Switching

11|26|15   |   09:58   |   (0) comments

Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
LRTV Custom TV
Delivering Service Agility in the Virtualization Era

11|25|15   |   5.41   |   (0) comments

Interview with Massimo Fatato, WW OSS Business Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Wagner’s Ring
How Might Open Source Fail?

11|24|15   |     |   (10) comments

Open source, SDN, and NFV are looking inevitable – but performance, standards proliferation and regulatory capture could derail the movement.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Lifecycle Orchestration – a Fresh Vision for Telco

11|23|15   |   6.40   |   (0) comments

Simon Osborne, CTO Comptel, and Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell reveal the business impacts of new SDN and NFV, and what the term service orchestration actually means. Together they define Lifecycle Service Orchestration and how the virtualized future will look for telecoms operators.
Between the CEOs
Cisco's Virtual Role in Saudi

11|20|15   |   12:15   |   (2) comments

Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Leads With Kubernetes for Cloud PaaS

11|19|15   |   08:26   |   (0) comments

Huawei is looking to Kubernetes as a key tool for building robust open source technologies for customers and partners, said Ying Xiong, chief architect of cloud platform at Huawei, in an interview with Light Reading West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner at the recent Kubecon conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
WiC in London: The Highlight Reel

11|19|15   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

NetCracker's Mervat El Dabae headlines an inspiring morning in London with help from leading women from Vodafone, TalkTalk, Hyperoptics and Ciena.
LRTV Documentaries
Why Saudi's So Hot for New Tech

11|19|15   |   05:07   |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders reports from Saudi Arabia, a hyper-competitive market desperate to embrace the next generation of communications technologies and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Why Data Models Deliver More Value Than Information Models

11|19|15   |   5.08   |   (0) comments

Stefan Vallin argues that more automation is needed to manage end-to-end services and the hybrid networks they run on, and that data models are key to achieving this.
Hot Topics
Samsung: No Sale of Wireless Unit
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/25/2015
Cable Gives Thanks for Business Services
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 11/27/2015
Facebook in Africa: Beauty or Beast?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/27/2015
Hong Kong Moments
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 11/26/2015
How Amazon TV Could Own Christmas
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 11/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
December 15, 2015
Virtualizing Cable Services
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Steve Saunders speaks with Saikrishna Kotha, who leads LinkedIn's data center infrastructure architecture strategy. With over 400 million users, it's Kotha's job to deliver agility and speed, but also act as a business strategist to develop new ways that LinkedIn can monetize its user base. According to Kotha, LinkedIn runs on a mix of white box and vendor hardware but has the DNA of a web-scale company.
Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
Cats with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.