California group critiques Comcast's low-income service

In order to acquire NBCUniversal in 2011, Comcast created a special low-income Internet service, which they called Internet Essentials. It offered 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds and a computer for $150 – on paper a pretty good deal.

However, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) found that in that state only 11 percent – some 35,205 households out of 313,000 eligible – have signed up for the service. “At that rate,” said CETF, “it would take another decade for Comcast to reach just half of the currently-eligible population.”

The reason is the lengthy, onerous and sometimes misleading sign-up procedure.

According to the CETF, “The application process often takes 2-3 months, far too long for customers who are skeptical about the product in the first place, and have other pressing demands on their budgets.”

Moreover, “Many low-income residents do not have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and are required to travel long distances to verify their identities because Comcast has closed many of its regional offices.”

Even worse, though, is that Comcast violated program rules by demanding credit checks – which often worsened applicants’ credit ratings – or by, in some cases, asking for $150 to avoid a credit check.

CETF recommends a series of changes to make the service more universal and accessible, such as: Include all low-income households; and, set performance goals establish an advisory oversight committee.

Speed Matters believes that all U.S. families should have access to the Internet, and that low-income should not be a barrier.

California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF)

California Emerging Technology Fund and Partners Urge FCC to Hold Comcast Accountable
(Jul. 22, 2014)

Comcast’s Internet for the poor too hard to sign up for, advocates say (Ars Technica, Jul. 23, 2014)