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Comcast Launching $9.95 Low Income Broadband Plan 277

Posted by timothy
from the paternal-instinct dept.
MojoKid writes "Comcast is launching 'Internet Essentials,' a new initiative offering discounted Internet access and home computers to families that meet low income requirements. The program was mandated as a requirement of Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, earlier this year. In that way, it's very similar to AT&T's Naked DSL program, which AT&T was required to offer as a condition of its merger with BellSouth. Internet Essentials will be available wherever Comcast offers broadband, which means 39 states."
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Comcast Launching $9.95 Low Income Broadband Plan

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  • From the website (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arterion (941661) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @05:50AM (#37013022)

    Looks like it's a 1.5/384 connection.

    http://www.internetessentials.com/faq/index.html [internetessentials.com]

    • Re:From the website (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Arterion (941661) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:03AM (#37013072)

      At the expense of replying to my own post:

      I'm a little upset this is only for people with children in school. If you're just poor, you're out of luck. I am specifically thinking of seniors, but also the unemployed and perhaps homes with children who are either too young for school, or children in college. For the unemployed, they could use it to try and find work. With gas prices being what they are, $9.95 is much cheaper than driving/bussing to the unemployment office or library to use a computer, and cheaper than subscribing to a local newspaper. They could also gain job skills if they wanted to use it to find free training materials online.

      As for seniors, I think there have been plenty of studies that show a wide array of activities -- almost all of them available via the internet -- can help keep their minds agile, and stave off senility. It might not be much, but it could reduce some burden on Medicare, as seniors could live on their own longer rather than living in a nursing home, or injure themselves less.

      I think the potential economic benefit of internet for the poor is more than enough to justify whatever subsidies or tax breaks Comcast is getting for doing it.

      • Re:From the website (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sqrt(2) (786011) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:21AM (#37013104) Journal

        I agree with everything you said, and would add that affordable internet access is a necessity in the US today. Most employers will just assume you have it, and to access the internal shift scheduling system you'll need home internet access. It's just as bad, if not worse, than not having a phone. If an employer found out you had no home internet access they'd probably skip over you just as often as if they found out you had no phone number or home address; you're just not worth the hassle. Obviously this isn't true for all jobs, but definitely for some.

        The US model is fundamentally broken because it used public money to finance private infrastructure. The lines themselves should be public, which the government leases to private business to provide internet service, and if a new company wants to start up, they get the same chance to compete as the big guys. Until we have something close to that we're not going to have fairness or equity in the distribution of this essential utility. Private enterprise alone is not going to take care of the poor and their needs, despite the fact that there are some basic needs common to everyone, regardless of their income. It's just not profitable to provide poor people with internet.

        Not giving those people the hand up they need hurts everyone in the long run, it's a shame that the mindset of conservatism seems to be not to do what is ultimately most fiscally responsible, but what perpetuates their notion of capitalist karmic justice. You can't help the poor, because they deserve to be punished. They deserve to be punished, or at least allowed to suffer, so they will improve themselves. You don't get to examine if they have the means for self improvement or not, that's beyond the scope of the notion of justice that conservatism holds. If you didn't deserve to be treated like that, you wouldn't be poor.

        Doing too much for people is also bad, but we are soooo far away from that in the US that we can afford to go full tilt toward The Welfare State without risking going over the ledge of left-wing extremism and taking TOO much care of people. We've lost our center in the US. Conservatives see us drifting farther to the left, when in reality we are pegged to the right and the momentum is still in that direction.

        • The lines themselves should be public, which the government leases to private business to provide internet service

          Why does the government have to be involved at all? Why not let individuals own the last-mile infrastructure. When you buy a house, you also buy the connection from the cabinet to your house. Take it a step further, and also buy a share in a cooperative that owns the connection between the cabinet and the exchange. Transit providers then compete to offer service to the neighbourhood.

          • by tepples (727027)

            Why not let individuals own the last-mile infrastructure.

            Then the problem of pulling cable over a non-subscriber's land to reach a subscriber returns.

          • by Arlet (29997)

            A simple solution is to let businesses own and operate the last mile, but implement some regulations that require these business to sell raw bandwidth for reasonable prices to any other business wishing to provide a service.

            That's how it's done in a lot of Europe, and it works pretty well.

            • That is actually how it's done in the US - it's regulated by a local (or State) utilities rate body. The company argues for a new rate, the body decides what the rate should really be, and that's that. Somehow I don't think giving it all to Government would work in the US, since rates are already set by Government in the first place...
        • now it would be more accurate to say, most employers of people who frequent this site assume those employees have access the the internet.

          There still are a good number of people who won't use the net even if you hand it them for free. It took our family years before our grandmother consented to even having a computer! We only convinced her that with a computer and internet she could get pictures of her grandkids daily, let alone e-mail from them. She didn't care to talk to her children all the time, she did

        • We need publicly owned and highly regulated wires/network, with private content.
      • by tepples (727027)

        $9.95 is much cheaper than driving/bussing to the unemployment office or library to use a computer

        I was under the impression that dial-up was still available at such a price.

        • Only if you also have a landline phone. In a lot of areas, subsidized phones are cellular, not landline; and even if a person isn't getting a subsidized phone, if money's tight they're likely to only have a cell because they're much more useful in an emergency.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Can't even use gmail on dialup more than half the time, it times out. Dialup is a non-starter today, and suggesting it is disingenuous at best.

      • Oh please not the seniors. I hate to be discriminatory but those with a sharp learning curve need some training before they call me. I'm patient and nice but all calls are timed and they blow me out of the water with those long calls. Since I'm in a position of talking to a wide variety of customers every day it really drives home just how poor basic computer education is for the older people who may be one or two generations behind me.
      • Comcast regularly sells 15/1 service for $20/month. True that goes up after a year, but then you can switch to DSL for a little less. Letting people pay $10 for 1.5/nada internet is hardly doing them a favor--and even they will have to ration their usage or risk having their account terminated for being bandwidth hogs. Not to mention the real price: the rule of law collapsing as TV/movie interests merge into a nasty monopoly controlling a huge piece of the internet market.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Sunday August 07, 2011 @05:54AM (#37013040) Homepage

    Look, if they're going to offer subsidized internet access to low-income households, I think the real move should be to nationalize it altogether. If Comcast and/or the FCC can acknowledge that it is a public right to have affordable internet access for everyone, then it is high time the profit motive were removed from the equation. Oh, wait, you guys completely fucked that up with the national health care plan... carry on with your nihilistic ledger-padding then!

    • by Arterion (941661)

      The internet situation is still better than the health care situation, though. Internet prices have fallen or remained the same while service levels increased.

      Health care has gotten more expensive while service levels have fallen.

      I actually think handing the reigns of the health care system over to Comcast might be an improvement... and that's sad to say.

      • by Igarden2 (916096)
        One similarity of both systems is the efficient delivery of viruses.
      • by DavidShor (928926) <(supergeek717) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday August 07, 2011 @07:03AM (#37013224) Homepage
        Eh. Every country that has better broadband than us does it via extensive government intervention. Our internet is more expensive and slower, by a considerable margin, than most other countries in the OECD, even when you just look at dense cities. The best internet in the country is in Utah, where government has just rolled out their own fiber. Markets are great, but they don't really work with utilities. Monopolies, network externalities, economies of scale, etc.
        • The line providers (Comcast and the like) are actually highly regulated. Their rates are set by local or State regulatory agencies and boards. The company can petition for an increase in subscription prices, but it is Government that basically determines if the price increase is allowed. Since it's already screwed up, I'm not sure how turning everything over to Government would make it better...
      • Many Slashdot geeks like to act like Internet access hasn't changed in a decade but that is not at all true. You get a lot more for your money. I think about my own history on the net:

        I first got a connection in 1996. It was dialup, 28.8k max. That was a little deceptive though as the ISP had only a 28.8 frame relay out, so if more than one person was using it, you got less throughput. It cost $15/month, but also needed a phoneline, which ran about $25/month so around $40/month total, about $55 in today's d

        • by Splab (574204)

          Still rather expensive per mbit, here (Denmark, Europe) I pay $50 for 60/60mbit (uncapped) connection with 3 fixed IPs.

          A 200/200mbit connection is $191.

          • But the point is over all how you are getting lots more for less. I'm not saying the US Internet is the best in the world, I am saying it is not bad and has improved a ton in 15 years.

            Also a few other things to consider:

            1) Do you really get your promised rate, to all over the place? Something I've seen quite a few times, most particularly with Japanese ISPs but elsewhere too, is that they build a big WAN type of environment where there's a fast connection to the premises and to their stuff, but not to much

            • The only "progress" most areas of the US see are increasing bills and new bandwidth rationing schemes. My internet has been 10/1 for the past 6 years during which time it has increased in 30% in price to $60 and dropped usenet. In order to pay for such an enormously innovative product, metered pricing is "inevitable" says TWC's CEO.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          We like to act like that because it hasn't changed much in the last decade. I'm paying roughly the same amount of money now for the same connection that I was getting over a decade ago when I first got a cable modem. There has been a bit of a decrease in price, but that's been pretty minimal, I was paying $50 or so for a 4mbps connection and now I'm paying $55 a month for a 5mbps connection.

          There's a lot of folks around here that aren't able to get more than 1.5mbps even though they live closer to the CO th

    • Look, if they're going to offer subsidized internet access to low-income households, I think the real move should be to nationalize it altogether.

      That'll never happen as we're not socialist enough. If all ISP's were required to be a utility that would at least require approval from a public utility commission to raise rates etc and you would have another means of resolving your service issues.

    • by Jaktar (975138)

      I pretty much agree with you. Something that gets overlooked frequently is the unserved areas between the cities. There are certainly poor people out there too.

      There's no incentive for businesses to run cable/internet out there because the return on investment is too low. Government has stepped in and provided money for infrastructure, but we're a long way from the kind of coverage that's needed.

  • by Manip (656104) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:05AM (#37013074)
    If the US had real competition you would have providers offering $10 broadband as standard without any income requirements. The rest of the Western world (ex. Canada) seem to be able to manage it. How long is the US going to let themselves be held hostage by the big two providers?
    • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:24AM (#37013112) Journal

      For as long as it's profitable (mistreating customers is ALWAYS profitable when you have a monopoly on a good or service that is essential, and Internet access is)...or the people all out rebel.

      I don't see the latter happening in the US, sadly.

    • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:57AM (#37013198)

      I do hope you meant "excluding" Canada, not "example: Canada". In Canada, the absolute cheapest broadband I've seen is a 3meg/256kbit cable connection for $27.95/mo, and that'll still cost you $50 for the installation, and more for the modem purchase. If you already have other services, you can get cheaper (a 512/512 DSL for $24.95, for example... band rate for dry loop makes that one cost more than the cable option above). There's even a cellular provider who will provide you with HSPA for $20/mo if you already have cellular service with them... but that's the caveat: if you already have cellular service with them. That's a minimum $25/mo on top of that (or $20 if you can pay for the whole year in advance). To be fair, that particular provider will sell you unlimited local calling, and no bandwidth limit on the cellular connection for that price, but it's still nowhere near the pricing mentionned in TFA.

      As far as I know, there's nobody who will sell you just a broadband Internet connection for anything approaching $10/mo in this country. If somebody can prove me wrong, I would be very interested to hear about it, but Internet is almost as much of a rip-off in Canada as the US.

      • Perhaps some other countries should be looked at. I'm not sure what he counts as "western" but the UK ought to qualify. I see a deal there for up to 50mbps for $60/month for cable Internet. Requires a 12 month contract. My local cable company offers 50mbps for $90/month with no contract ($60/month gets you 25mbps). In Spain I see 10mbit ADSL and phone service for about $60/month with a 12 month contract. That's in line with what you'd pay either the cable of phone company for similar service here. Italy see

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          I have Virgin cable, 50mbit/5mbit, but bundled with a budget cable TV package and a phone line (65+ channels, free weekend/evening calls) and it costs me $82/month.

          It's been rock solid too - almost no downtime in the 2 years I've had it and no throttling or caps (although there was talk of them introducing throttling at peak times on all traffic, dropping my connection to 37.5mbit at those times, and in exchange for this they increased the upstream from 1mbit to 5mbit, but I think they have quietly dropped

          • You probably don't notice the throttling because your connection is so fast as to make little to no difference. I also have a 50mbit connection and it really is overkill. For 99% of things, I notice no difference over the 20mbit connection I had before. Both load webpages instantly (I wait for DNS or slow ass ad servers more than pages to load), I can stream HD video and surf no problems, and so on. The only difference I notice is my games on Steam download obscenely fast instead of very fast.

            So when they c

            • by jo_ham (604554)

              What I meant by that is I have data for it, and there aren't any times of day where the data shows that the connection doesn't max out at 50mbit, either due to a file download, or 3 people watching iPlayer at the same time while someone else downloads etc.

              We seem to get 50mbit/5mbit at all times of day.

              • According to their policy [virginmedia.com] you will be throttled for 5 hours, down to 35% of your normal speed, if you upload more than 6000MB between 3-8PM on any given day. So, if max out your upload for two hours and forty minutes, during that 5 hour window, then you will be throttled.
  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @06:54AM (#37013192)
    I love the comment on the article from a guy who complains that other customers will have to pay for these accesses for the poors.
    God forbid these people have access to internet and be able to raise better educated kids to contribute to society!
    • by DavidShor (928926)
      A conservative is somebody who stays up at night because somewhere, some poor person might be getting something they don't deserve.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        And a liberal is someone who stays up at night because someone has more than they do. Take you pick greed or greed and envy.

        • Interesting, I do pretty well. Better than most of my peers and for some reason I lean towards liberal. Then again having been to a couple of wars will really give you a little compassion for people that don't have anything. I'm even all boostrappy and whatnot, came from very poor roots and made myself fairly successful. I don't really envy anyone and I'm not particularly greedy as the really poor people I help out can tell you. Granted I'm not going to make myself go broke or anything. So liberal wit
        • Really? I'm pretty comfortably off, but I'm not deluded enough to believe that this is entirely due to my own endeavours. I am, admittedly, pretty awesome, but I also had a lot of advantages throughout my life. I'm classed as a liberal, because I'd like everyone to have the same opportunities that I had, because I think that would produce a society that I'd like to live in. Is that greed, or greed and envy?
    • It is still a very odd idea, especially to mandate this as a condition of an acquisition. It's like saying: "you can have your capitalist monopoly and gouge the customer, if we can have our socialist Internet for the disadvantaged, paid out of your profits". If there's not enough competition, they should not allow the acquisition. If Internet access fees are too high for low income families, the government could decide to subsidise it out of their own coffers, which means all taxpaying voters pay for it,
      • This program probably won't cost Comcast anything--it might even turn a profit. The politicians could have just rubber-stamped the merger like they normally do, but throwing out a little bread to the pauper children is hard to resist, not because the corrupt representatives have socialist convictions (or any convictions at all) but because it is fun.
  • Familial Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 07, 2011 @07:24AM (#37013290)

    Read the details: it's ONLY offered to families with young children. If you're single and down on your luck, you're still down on your luck; if you're an older couple with teenaged kids fallen on hard times, tough luck for you, too.

    Ageism strikes again. Think of the children!

    • by PPH (736903)
      So you help the poor single mom next door set up her open WiFi AP. Problem solved.
  • by trout007 (975317) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @08:01AM (#37013398)

    It would be interesting to see what the "poor" use the Internet for in a years time. Who here thinks the majority of the time will be spent filling out job applications or Khan Academy? I'm pretty sure YouTube, porn sites, and community flash mob organizing will be the major activities.

    • by Issarlk (1429361)
      I'm pretty sure this is exactly the same for well-off riding mercedes, with an eye kept on their stock while they fap to porn of course.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Doesn't matter, there's a number of things where you really do need to have an internet connection to do. An increasing number of government agencies don't do anything via the phone anymore and have cut back or eliminated any way of getting in touch in person. I know that around here the Employment Security Department only does things via the internet, and the only accommodations they make for disability is for people that can't use the internet.

  • What is it worth for "the poor" to be connected on the same system?

    Who wants to bet the "low-cost" computers Comcast gives out have cameras that can be turned on remotely?

    I'm sorry, I'm paranoid. I stopped trusting anything a telecom does some years ago.

    • by PPH (736903)

      cameras that can be turned on remotely?

      Because we all want a live video feed from inside Madea's house.

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @11:07AM (#37014166) Homepage Journal
    Most poor people already have internet, on their smartphones that they pay $100 a month for.

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