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Comcast Extends Its Pre-Paid Model

Comcast Corp.'s trial of a pre-paid Internet service is currently isolated to the Philadelphia area, but the operator is preparing to apply a similar model to the company's Internet Essentials program in the second half of the year, company Executive VP David Cohen said Tuesday on a call that provided an update on the program. Cohen didn't detail the new pre-paid option but did note that it will center on "Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards" that will give eligible families another way to get on board with the program. Internet Essentials, a voluntary commitment linked to Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal LLC, targets lower-income households with school-age children who are eligible to receive free lunches under the federally assisted National School Lunch Program. Qualified households get discounted Internet service (3Mbit/s downstream by 768kbit/s upstream) for $9.95 per month, a $149.99 voucher toward the purchase of a PC, and access to a free digital literacy training regimen. Comcast also announced today that it is expanding eligibility to include parochial, private and home school students in its footprint, a move that the company says will expand the number of eligible families by another 300,000, to 2.6 million. (See Comcast Goes Big With Internet Essentials.) With the pre-paid trials in Philadelphia, Comcast is targeting everyday consumers, offering a 3Mbit/s Internet service that costs $45 for 30 days of access, or $15 for a seven-day pass. Comcast has not announced plans to roll out this particular pre-paid product elsewhere, but word that the operator intends to apply a pre-paid option to the Internet Essentials program is an indication that Comcast might have bigger plans in mind. (See Comcast Pitches Pre-Paid Internet Service.) Comcast's Internet Essentials program got underway about 16 months ago. Here's a snapshot of the stats shared on Tuesday:
  • More than 150,000 low-income families, or 600,000 Americans are now on board with the program.
  • Chicago was the highest-penetrated, with 15,500 Internet Essentials customers at the end of 2012.
  • The operator has distributed more than 15,000 computers at less than $150 each.
  • Comcast has shipped more than 25 million pieces of free collateral material, and fielded more than 1 million calls from its dedicated Internet Essentials call center.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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