Broadband services

Comcast Prepaid Proves Internet Isn't Cheap

There was a time about six years ago when I had access to WiMax service over a USB stick for $22.50 per month. WiMax certainly wasn't available everywhere, and the speeds were a bit below today's 4G standards, but the pricing and flexibility were unbeatable. No long-term contract required.

Today, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is venturing into similar territory with the introduction of Xfinity Prepaid Services. Including options for both broadband and TV, the prepaid offerings come bundled with hardware, 30 days of service and a choice of seven-day or 30-day service refill packages.

There are two major advantages to Comcast's new prepaid plans. First, there's the no-long-term-contract aspect. And second, service doesn't require a credit check, which can keep some consumers from getting traditional home broadband or TV service. Unfortunately, when it comes to pricing, the Xfinity Prepaid Services don't offer much of a break.

The starter kits for both broadband and TV service ring in at $80 with 30-day refill packages starting at $45. The monthly fee is about equivalent to today's 4G prepaid phone service with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) or Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), but chances are that many consumers worried about price will already have bought mobile phone service out of necessity. So they may not be ready to double their monthly cost to get an additional broadband or TV service at home.

In addition, $80 as a starter fee sounds a bit steep for a set-top or broadband gateway. Keep in mind that you still need another device to actually watch TV or surf the Internet.

I don't want to get too down on Comcast. It's always nice to have options. But there's not a whole lot of value here, and I imagine the new prepaid services will have limited appeal.

Comcast is launching the Xfinity Prepaid products -- starting in Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Florida and Indiana -- later this year, and is scheduled to extend service across its footprint by the end of next year. The cable company has also partnered with Boost Mobile to sell the service at Boost Mobile locations.

Comcast originally started testing prepaid service back in 2012. (See Comcast Pitches Pre-Paid Internet Service.)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

Sign In