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FCC, Cable Back Low-Cost Internet Battle Plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and several U.S. cable operators are getting behind a $9.95-per-month broadband plan targeted at low-income households, closely mimicking Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s recently rolled-out Internet Essentials program.

The Connect to Compete (C2C) program will target K-12 students that don't currently have broadband in their homes and qualify under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Cable MSOs are also waiving installation fees and will lease the modems for free or sell them for a "nominal fee." Cable's also committed to provide minimum download speeds of up to 1 Mbit/s. Among the caveats, qualifying households must not have an outstanding cable bill.

C2C is slated to get off the ground with the start of the 2012 school year, and the offer will be good during a three-year sign-up window. One Economy, a nonprofit digital literacy advocate, will run the program.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , another key program backer, estimates that there are more than 10 million NSLP free-lunch students in the 5.5 million homes that don't currently subscribe to broadband.

The NCTA said the following MSOs have committed to C2C "or similar broadband adoption efforts" so far: BendBroadband , Bright House Networks , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications Inc. , Cox Communications Inc. , Eagle Communications, General Communication Inc. (GCI) (Nasdaq: GNCMA), Insight Communications Co. Inc. , Mediacom Communications Corp. , Midcontinent Communications (Midco) , Sjoberg's Cable, Suddenlink Communications and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). Comcast's also in via Internet Essentials, the program that's linked to commitments made as part of its purchase of NBCUniversal LLC .

C2C has yet to gain the backing of major telcos such as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).

Why this matters
The FCC hopes C2C will spur high-speed Internet adoption and bolster its own National Broadband Plan.

C2C effectively replaces Adoption Plus, a similar program the cable industry kicked off in 2009 that turned out to be a non-starter. Comcast didn't like it because of the targeted price (about $15 per month) and the fact that it targeted only middle-school students.

For more
Read more about the FCC's plan and cable's recent broadband adoption efforts.



— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 4:49:20 PM
re: FCC, Cable Back Low-Cost Internet Battle Plan

So Genachowski's call at the Cable Show in Chicago for the industry (and other stakeholders) to explore ways to increase b'band adoption last June seems to have gone somewhere, as the applause he got at the time indicated he might.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:49:13 PM
re: FCC, Cable Back Low-Cost Internet Battle Plan

Yeah, the A+ idea was just a bit undercooked. This new program won't apply to a great number of people and there are lots of hurdles to become eligible, but perhaps wide adoption by some major MSOs will pressure the telcos and satellite broadband service providers to jump in and play too or come up with similar programs of their own. JB

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