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Government Businesses The Internet

Comcast-Time Warner Deal May Hinge On Low-Cost Internet Plan 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-we'll-do-the-dishes-for-two-weeks dept.
techpolicy (3586897) writes "Comcast Corp.'s proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc. has brought the issue of the digital divide and the federal government's failing policies to decrease it back onto center stage, according to an article by the Center for Public Integrity. Comcast has told the Federal Communications Commission that it will offer its discounted Internet program for low-income customers to residents living in Time Warner Cable's service areas — if the FCC approves the purchase. Comcast offered FCC the same deal in 2011 when it bought NBCUniversal. But the low-cost program, called Internet Essentials, has signed up only 12 percent of the 2.6 million families eligible for the service since it was launched nearly three years ago. While the FCC and other federal agencies have spent billions of dollars trying to provide broadband access and training programs to the poor to close the divide, so far the policies haven't worked much. The percentage difference between Americans earning below $30,000 who have an Internet connection in their home and those earning $75,000 or more who have an in-home connection has narrowed only 4 percentage points from 2009 to 2013. As the Comcast purchase moves through its regulatory approval process, the center reports that it may be time to revisit the policies that will get more poor Americans connected, especially because to function in society today you have to be online."
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Comcast-Time Warner Deal May Hinge On Low-Cost Internet Plan

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  • Fuck Comcast (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:35AM (#47116691)

    People say "six of one, a half dozzen of the other", but I'll still take Google fiber of anything relatd to Comcast. And don't fool yourself, all broadband providers track and profile their users, I might as well get decent high-speed out of the deal.

    • Re:Fuck Comcast (Score:5, Informative)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @01:17AM (#47116863) Journal

      Privacy can be controlled (e.g. VPN), so the lesser of two evils is still Google Fiber.

      *sigh* - if only I could just use the fiber and be my own ISP with one single IP and firewall. Too bad they only do blocks for that sort of thing (IIRC).

    • by guises (2423402)
      ... I've been hearing "Google fiber" every time Comcast comes up. It's getting a little tiresome, frankly. There is no one on this earth not connected to Comcast who wouldn't prefer Google fiber, but it's available to very few people. Another post saying that it's better just isn't useful.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:37AM (#47116705)

    It's called empty promises. The primary purpose of this merger is not nor will it ever be to take care of the poor. It merely serves to unhook the approval process that would create an internet oligarchy.

    Cheap internet for anybody is the last thing that these guys want.

    • by meerling (1487879)
      They've only gotten 12% of those eligible.
      So, what's the 'discounted' price, and how many of them have even heard about the 'discount'?
      • by firex726 (1188453)

        It's $10/mth, and you have to have a child eligible for free/reduced cost meals, and not have had Comcast service for 90 days. So if you dont take advantage right away, you'll have to cut off service for three months to become eligible.

        • by jd2112 (1535857)

          It's $10/mth, and you have to have a child eligible for free/reduced cost meals, and not have had Comcast service for 90 days. So if you dont take advantage right away, you'll have to cut off service for three months to become eligible.

          And you have to know about this, as they will go out of their way to not promote it. And you will have to find a customer service representative that knows about it and is willing to fill out the additional 7 forms to qualify for this. Yes, I've heard this song before played after another big ISP merger.

    • by MonkeyTrial (713192) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:57AM (#47116773)
      The Internet Essentials program Comcast offers is $9.95/month, and to be eligible, you have to have a child who participates in the Free and Reduced Lunch program. No kids? Not eligible.
      • by Bob_Who (926234)
        So basically, when assured a demographic (and limited term) of a student, they deign help who they please. Not just the poor or needy citizens, but just the virgin meat: Children easily influenced by their advertising and enticements to pay per view, are their prey.

        When Comcastula gets its virgin fetus guarantee, they offer to do the government's job, and protect the best interest of its third world citizens. Never mind the fact, as was stated, that they fail to deliver as promised.

        Stop paying Co
      • by geekmux (1040042)

        The Internet Essentials program Comcast offers is $9.95/month, and to be eligible, you have to have a child who participates in the Free and Reduced Lunch program. No kids? Not eligible.

        So Comcast clearly feels that for anyone under the age of 18, the internet is important.

        For everyone else, get off your wallet you can't afford and pay me full price.

        If it's so critical to "be online" in today's society, they should stop dividing it even further within the poor.

        Oh, and 2009 - 2013 was not exactly the best time to be interviewing anyone to find out why they haven't blown money on wireless routers, laptops, and high-speed internet when people were losing their jobs left and right, so the stat

        • by weszz (710261)

          So out of curiosity... any idea on the speeds this gives? I make too much to qualify myself, but as a foster parent we regularly have kids in the house we take care of that would qualify... We take advantage of some things the WIC checks offer like discounted museum memberships, since the food checks don't even come close to covering what kids eat.

          If it is a decent speed this would be interesting to me.

        • Oh, and 2009 - 2013 was not exactly the best time to be interviewing anyone to find out why they haven't blown money on wireless routers

          Hell, I'm still using a WRT54G.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      It's called empty promises. The primary purpose of this merger is not nor will it ever be to take care of the poor. It merely serves to unhook the approval process that would create an internet oligarchy.

      Cheap internet for anybody is the last thing that these guys want.

      Yes, it's one hell of a bribe (let's call it what it is), and I hope the FCC can see the statistics through the trees to call them on their bullshit.

      Not sure I'd put that much faith in the government to be that intelligent or anti-corrupt. Comcast already has several monopoly areas. I fail to see how this would ever pass on those grounds alone, but we no longer give a shit about monopolies. Corruption rules.

      And when Comcast gets their way that will be validated once again.

      Happy voting.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        It's called empty promises. The primary purpose of this merger is not nor will it ever be to take care of the poor. It merely serves to unhook the approval process that would create an internet oligarchy.

        Cheap internet for anybody is the last thing that these guys want.

        Yes, it's one hell of a bribe (let's call it what it is), and I hope the FCC can see the statistics through the trees to call them on their bullshit.

        I wouldn't call it a bribe. More like a distraction. They're trying to make a fundamentall

    • It's called empty promises. The primary purpose of this merger is not nor will it ever be to take care of the poor. It merely serves to unhook the approval process that would create an internet oligarchy.

      Cheap internet for anybody is the last thing that these guys want.

      Remember the AT&T 768Kbps $10.00 a month naked internet service that was almost impossible to find. It was the short term bribe to get the BellSouth merger passed the regulators. This is Comcrap's version of the same three card monte.

    • Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me ... how many times is it now that this was promised?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tell that to the Amish. See how far you get. I fucking dare you.

    • by Xenx (2211586)
      Considering the Amish (obviously a generalization based on a segment of the group) are in fact willing to use the internet for work related purposes... It does in fact seem to be fairly neccesary.
      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @04:35AM (#47117417)

        It depends on the specific group, but they generally have a council that decides on the acceptance of new technology and any restrictions on use based on two criteria: Self-sufficiency and the impact on communal lifestyle. They may approve internet use for business purposes if they deem it essential, but they'll also set strict rules to prevent it creeping into non-business use, like requiring the computer be located in an office area and not permitting them in residences.

  • They'll probably just raise prices for no improvement in service, making more of us commoners poorer. In the end they win, the public looses.
  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:46AM (#47116747)
    If Comcast gets to legally extort and shake down sites for profit, the bad is going to worse. I hear they should be classified as a type 2 common carrier. We know Comcast bought off FCC officials back with Meridth Atwell Baker. A lot of people are looking at this Blake Wheeler guy doing whatever Comcast wants even though the public is rallying against him, and going,"Man, the system really isn't in it for the people like they should be. I didn't know corruption was established that they can be this transparent and get away with it." For a while a lot of people would go,"It isn't such a big deal that the politicians can be bought out by wealthy individuals and corporations since corporations need to service us." But they're finding out now that if corporations go unchecked by the government, they can do damages far worse than the old telephone companies which actually had some check against them. But where does this go when our politicians and public servants go to the highest bidder? Do we go the road of Mexico where their politicans are not only bought out by druglords, but they live under the veil of fear? Or what? It is interesting that not even all the money that are buying out politicians even comes from the USA. Foreign wealthy entities should not have the ability to have their say in American Politics. When your government says it is sold to the highest bidder, corruption can bring down any empire.

    I love the USA. I love our education system. I love the people you get to meet and make friends with. I just wish we didn't have legalized bribery of politicians.
  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:52AM (#47116761)
    You are in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and the CEO of Comcast. You have a gun with two bullets. What do you do?

    You shoot the CEO twice.
    • by Chas (5144)

      No. You shoot Stalin and Hitler in the head, just to be safe.
      Then you pistol-whip the CEO to death with the heated muzzle.

      MUCH more emotionally satisfying! =)

    • by meglon (1001833)
      You line them up, and shoot all three of them in the head twice.
  • Internet at library (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @01:17AM (#47116861) Homepage Journal
    From the summary: "to function in society today you have to be online." But why exactly do you have to be online at home to function? Why can't you, say, do all your Internet use at the local public library?
    • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @05:30AM (#47117599) Homepage

      Have you ever tried to do this? Without your own car? Perhaps with a disability? Are you lucky enough to live in a city that has a library? How far is it to walk to it from where you live? Do you have cold winters there, or hot and humid summers? Is there public transportation that goes from near your house to the library? If so, how many buses does it take? What's the fare, and how much does that add up to if you do it once a day? How long does the ride take? Do you have someone to watch your kids while you do it, or do you bring them along? Did it even occur to you to consider any of these questions?

      • by tepples (727027)

        Let me give you a whole bunch of personal information: I currently don't have a car. I have a disability in the sense that years ago I used Indiana's vocational rehabilitation services. Indiana weather has both "cold winters" and "hot and humid summers". A monthly pass on the bus service here costs $45 per month* but is useful for things other than Internet access, such as getting to and from work and the supermarket. I just wanted to know whether the convenience of not having to commute to a library was a

      • by Petron (1771156)

        If we have to bend over backwards for every single rare instance of some ultra-hard-luck case... we will never have anything nice.

        Does that poor person with no car, no legs, living in an area with -74 degree winters and no way to get to a public internet location (such as a library) get to the store to get food? Could that resource also stop a community center, library, city hall, etc to use a computer?

        There will always be a hard luck case.

  • With such a huge number of customers (competition aside), the resulting company would become a huge CDN player. Maybe the biggest?

    Would Netflix or anyone else need Akamai or others?

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @01:19AM (#47116873) Journal

    How about Comcast has to offer the low cost internet plan to any of their customers that wants it.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      How about Comcast has to offer the low cost internet plan to any of their customers that wants it.

      (Comcast support, 3 hours later...)

      "Ah, yes, I see you're on our fuck-you-very-much plan. Oh, you say your speeds are horrendous? It feels like dial-up? Wow, I can't imagine why, but if you're unhappy with your plan, you can always upgrade..."

    • by Andrio (2580551)

      Comcast would make a lot less money.

      Granted, they would still be profitable, but they would make less money.

      The speed for the plan isn't too terrible, either. 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. That's usable for everything except HD video streaming.

    • by guises (2423402)
      Internet Essentials is 5 Mb down / 1 Mb up. If they were forced to offer this to all of their customers, and there were restrictions in place ensuring no caps and actual neutrality, no fast lanes, no throttling, and further restrictions ensuring that non-Internet Essentials customers didn't get preferential treatment AND (most important) a minimum bandwidth requirement - i.e.: it's currently "up to" 5 Mb / 1Mb, but as with all service in the US there's no bottom cap. I'd want a guaranteed minimum of somethi
  • Already here? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mycroft-X (11435) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @01:42AM (#47116951)

    Time Warner Cable already offers 2MBps service for $14.99 across its footprint.

    It isn't hard to find, it's right next to all the other speed options on their web site.

    Customers can buy their own modem from Best Buy or wherever or they can lease a TWC modem for $6 a month.

    I have a feeling that most customers who need a $9.99 or $14.99 internet plan probably aren't going to front $300 for Google Fiber to be installed, or even own the place they would be paying for it to be installed in.

    • by coryhamma (842129)
      Now that Comcast is using existing internet cable boxes to offer wifi to other Comcast customers, I think they should have an even cheaper option to allow eligible people (not just those with children) access via WiFi for a one-time fee of $9.99. This would ensure that people living in close proximity have a chance to get online, especially if they don't have a consistent living arrangement. Part of the cost for Comcast is actually producing a paper bill to mail to these folks, and processing payments ...
  • Time for ObamaNet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:01AM (#47117001)

    Make purchase of Comcast internet a mandatory thing for all americans.

    Now the poor have internet, and are only somewhat more poor!

    Hey, it worked for the insurance industry and healthcare policies.

    Although to be fair the analogy is not really complete unless you also make all americans purchase HBA/Showtime/MLB packages.

  • by Chas (5144) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:08AM (#47117023) Homepage Journal

    So, basically, instead of making Comcast, y'know IMPROVE THEIR FUCKING NETWORK AND PEERING, we're going to go for a "cheap internet plan".

    Oh boy. A 1mbit/1mbit plan for $20 a month! WOO!
    Oh, in the fine print. Going over the 5MByte cap more than twice in a 6 month period gets you upgraded to the more expensive basic plan!

    Oh, and at any point did anyone discuss the problem with Comcast's horizontal monopoly being extended to a few million more people? Yes, even if they spin those people off, it's still majority owned by Comcast. All their competitor is doing is getting a revenue share to shut them the fuck up.

    No.

    No.

    NO!

    • by dysmal (3361085)

      Meantime every ass-hat website is adding more and more bloatware (advertisements) which makes websites feel SLOWER than dial up.

      Has anyone truthfully tried to use dial up recently? It's awful. Websites have gotten so bloated that you need broadband just to have a functional web browsing experience.

  • So it's no good for poor seniors living on social security and the unemployed.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:45AM (#47117105)

    For this actually work, comcast hast offer these rates to third parties using their lines. That is, comcast must offer a discounted rate to third party providers that are offering content to low income or poorly served areas.

    If it only goes through comcast directly then comcast has the ability to control costs by limiting service.

    And you know that would be fine only they seem to be offering congress this deal to pay for their monopoly rights. Well, I don't want them to be a monopoly and I'd just as soon tell them to screw themselves. However, if they are going to get their monopoly rights then at the very least we should get them to pay for it with what they SAY they're going to pay.

    If congress doesn't force this as an open provider policy then they've been suckered.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:57AM (#47117121) Homepage Journal

    From what I've seen, people on a tight budget get a smart phone with a data plan and use that to get online, not a landline cable or DSL connection. That way they hit two birds with one device: phone service and internet.

    Sure it's not as "good" as a landline internet connection with a good computer. But it is far cheaper -- at least at first.

    • by Bob_Who (926234)
      Every little bit helps. But lets face it, they just love to put that electronic leash on the doomed.

      If the poor can't maintain a valid ID, they'll just be issued one (shaped like a phone). We can just call it an alibi for the innocent, or for those guilty, a witness for the prosecution.
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:21AM (#47117167)

    If anyone cares to take the time write up a comment that may assist the FCC in evaluating or deal or possible concessions to be demanded of Comcast, the link to file those comments is here:
    http://www.fcc.gov/mergers [fcc.gov]

    Two types of comments can be productive. It can be helpful to file a well-written comment that includes.numbers, citations showing exactly how Comcast's position has been detrimental. It can also be very helpful to file a comment with a suggestion for a compromise that mitigates bad effects from allowing the deal to go through. For example, a comment posted three weeks ago suggesting that they be required to keep TWC's discount program could have been helpful. What doesn't do any good are "fuck Comcast" or "fuck the FCC" comments. Those only make it look like those opposing the acquisition don't have any articulable reason for doing so.

    Yes, it's a bit like a homework assignment, to be effective you need to either cite your sources or present a new idea that the FCC hasn't already thought of. That involves more work than writing "fuck Comcast", but such is life in the real world, where grown-ups are making grown-up decisions.

    • by Bob_Who (926234)
      No No No

      FUCK COMCAST FUCK COMCAST FUCK COMCAST

      I just can't give that up. That's the only payoff we get so don't tell me to stop

      FUCK COMCAST just feels so right!!
  • Here's an idea.

    Rip up all the local monopoly deals and enforce (via legislation) meaningful competition.

    That'll bring prices and service more into line with the rest of the developed world.

    That'll get people (even the poor) signing up.

  • This "Internet Essentials" program might help some poor people, but it's only available to people with children (eligible for school lunch programs). It's a typical example of how we consider children who live in poverty to be "innocent victims", but adults who can't work due to disability or lack of jobs are treated as if they were unworthy of assistance. In this case, internet access could make a huge difference for them in terms of quality of life and/or additional cost savings (giving access to low-entr

  • With the first internet we had waste fraud and abuse.

    The government should own it all. We would pay as much and get as much. With a government "service plan" you get bloviating politicians at no extra cost. (Funny is guaranteed)

    In a for profit system shareholders demand increasing returns and care nothing about "suitability for purpose" it's a race to divide services and collect revenue. The "Useful" parts are increasingly claimed. fenced and charged for until everyone not in on the scam throws up

  • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @06:31AM (#47117731)
    One of Comcast's arguments for the merger is that current Comcast and Time Warner customers won't be affected because the two companies compete in very few markets. Consequently, customers will not suffer from reduced competition if the two companies should merge.

    But by forcing the Netflix deal, Comcast has turned every Internet site out there into a (potential) customer. Netflix has to pay Comcast = Netflix is a customer. In the market for access deals with web sites, Comcast and Time Warner are competitors (Netflix does not need to make deals with both of them, and can leverage the better service on one ISP to pressure the other into making a cheaper deal). Therefore, a Comcast and Time Warner merger reduces competition.
  • If I remember right, correct me if I am wrong, if this merger happens Comcast will have 70% of the market. This is just ridiculous since they will obviously have geographic monopolies all over the country with this move.
  • The weasels at Comcast will promise anything to get the merge and then forget all the promises.
  • especially because to function in society today you have to be online.

    First of all, no you don't. Second of all, what percentage of low-income families without home broadband have at least one smartphone with a data plan? Voila; they're online.

  • Comcast barely provides customer service to people who pay for their expensive offerings. What kind of service can the low cost internet plan customers expect to receive?
  • Bust their monopolized asses up into multiple overlapping entities and make them compete. We'd get a few more perks, too if they are suddenly given a real incentive to improve their product.

  • Yes corporate interest x, you can have any power you wish as long as we, the governing class, are unaffected, compensated appropriately, and given political cover. Oh a low income internet service --- perfect! For the people! There's no turning back. The left and the right establishment care nothing save for there own interests and we will live under a soft dictatorship with pretend elections before any real traction will be given to a class of political reformers. The tea party was the best hope. But we
  • has signed up only 12 percent of the 2.6 million families eligible for the service since it was launched

    Perhaps only 12% of those 2.6 million want internet service? I know it's unthinkable to be without broadband but there are people that don't want it. Why the crusade to get to 100%? ... Oh yeah, more sheeple for advertisers.

  • I've been thinking about an alternative structure that might allow a viable alternative to the hegemonic networks we have today. Every time I try to write this out I struggle to explain it, and never submit. I'm going to do my best to write this and hope that some of the folks on slashdot could help flesh this out. I'm trying to do something along the lines of writing a GPL license. Using a contract to turn the business of networking upside down, making people owners of the network they use.

    As I see it, th

  • The way America's poor 20-somethings get on the Internet now is through their smartphones. (In my experience the older poor don't get online at all). The plethora of $30-$40/mo. "unlimited" 3G services and used 1+ year old smartphones means you can do it and have phone service for about $100 upfront and $40/mo thereafter, and not tied to a landline either. However this is a recent development. US prepaid data plans before 2012 were woefully inadequate.

    I won't pretend that we don't live in an age of tech

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