Broadband Gets 'Lifeline' Status

A new program for low-income households from Cox Communications Inc. demonstrates how the importance of having Internet connectivity is starting to rival that of regular telephone services.

In Oklahoma, the MSO reportedly is giving a free year of Internet service to homes that qualify for the government's "Lifeline" assistance program. Those users will still have to pony up about $7.50 for the installation fee and $9.95 per month after the initial year of free service.

No word yet what kind of speeds these customers can expect, or whether Cox is making similar offers in other markets.

The traditional Lifeline program provides phone service to qualifying homes -- and people who live on current or former reservation or tribal land -- for about $1 per month. Cox supports that effort through its Enhanced Lifeline basic phone service, which waives monthly FCC charges and deposits for the phones themselves.

Although some people may think they can't do without TV, MSOs have also discussed offering an analog "video lifeline," though the context is much different than what we see with phone and, apparently now, with Internet connections. Rather than marketing it to low-income homes, the idea is to continue freeing up bandwidth by moving analog channels to the digital domain while keeping a small set of channels in analog for those customers who believe a set-top might somehow infect their domiciles. (See Going 'Mostly' Digital .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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