100,000 families enrolled in Comcast's discounted Internet

September 22, 2012 by Bob Fernandez

After a slow start, Comcast Corp. says it has enrolled 100,000 poor families nationwide into its discounted Internet program.

Internet Essentials - offering Internet service at a 79 percent discount, or $9.95 a month, to families with school-age children - remains a work in progress, says.

In early 2011, Comcast volunteered to offer Internet Essentials in its negotiations with the to acquire control of NBCUniversal.

The program is designed to address the low adoption rate of broadband service in low-income neighborhoods - a result partly of the cost of an Internet service and a computer. In Philadelphia, for example, Comcast's least expensive stand-alone Internet service costs $47 a month, which includes the modem rental, a company spokesman said.

Comcast says it has found that the biggest barrier to Internet Essentials' adoption is that many people in don't understand the Internet.

"They think it may be used for Comcast or the government to spy on them," said David Cohen, the program's chief booster and an executive vice president at Comcast.

Other officials say many residents believe that the discounted service is a scam and don't apply, or haven't heard about it. Comcast has marketed the program through and now says it is widening its contacts.

The estimates that 2.3 million families nationwide are eligible for Internet Essentials.

If Internet Essentials were to match Comcast Xfinity Internet's 36 percent penetration, it would have 828,000 nationwide. Comcast reached the 36 percent market share over 15 years, Cohen noted.

The company, Cohen said, was seeking "respected voices" in communities to talk about the importance of the Internet to education.

"I love this program," said Cohen, a former chief of staff to then-Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell. "I can't tell you how proud I am that we have signed up 100,000 families to the Internet."

Eligibility for Internet Essentials is based on whether a child participates in the federal free or reduced-cost lunch program. If a child participates, the qualifies for Internet Essentials.

There are restrictions. A family does not qualify if it already subscribes to a Comcast Internet service or has an unpaid cable-TV bill.

One success story is the Independence Charter School in Philadelphia, which has 30 families enrolled in Internet Essentials.

Initially, "people thought it was too good to be true and a scam," said Richard Trzaska, chief executive officer of Independence Charter, an 800-student school.

To overcome that perception, Jenny Hoedeman-Eiteljorg, the school's family and community partnerships coordinator, individually called the 275 eligible families to tell them that it was the real deal.

Sheerita Wilson, 25, of South Philadelphia, is one of the parents. Her son Zaahid is 7 years old. Wilson said she heard about the program on the radio and applied. She said her son was upset when he came home and could not have access to the Internet, which she says he uses for math and spelling. "You can't beat $9.95 a month," she said.

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5 / 5 (1) Sep 22, 2012
$9.95 is actually much closer to what the service should cost for everybody.

It's just a case of successful abuse of the ignorance of the masses, and lack of competition due to the inherently monopolistic nature of telecommunication. The customers have no way of evaluating what the service is actually worth, because they don't have information about how much it costs to the company, and since it's not cost-effective for competitors to build a parallel infrastructure to compete, there's nobody to challenge the prices.

Another thing you'll notice is that cellular prices are 80% air because people are simply accustomed to paying the sort of prices, and bundling "$99" phones in the deal helps to obscure what they're actually paying for the service and what they're paying for the phone. The people go for the locked-in services because the unlocked phones and plans are deliberately more expensive, so the customers are tied in pretty strongly.
Vendicar Dickarian
2 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2012
$9.95 is actually much closer to what the service should cost for everybody.

It's just a case of successful abuse of the ignorance of the masses, and lack of competition due to the inherently monopolistic nature of telecommunication. .....

As Johnny Carson's sidekick Ed McMahon used to say, "You are correct sir!"

Also, I found this interesting:
"They think it [the internet] may be used for Comcast or the government to spy on them," said David Cohen, the program's chief booster and an executive vice president at Comcast.

As it turns out, those poor individuals are quite correct. The Comcast V.P. is a dumbshit for suggesting otherwise.
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 22, 2012
I live in Europe, and I pay e9.95 per month for 50 Mbps broadband. And I consider it average. Looks like Comcast and their friends are screwing the ignorant.

But then again, here you NEVER had to pay for received cellular calls, so people never learned to keep their cellular off, or screen their calls.

A functioning and fluid internet/cellular world, is simply not going to happen in the US, in the foreseeable future.

The more I look at this issue, the more I'm convinced that places like Mongolia, Turkmenistan, rural Pakistan, and rural Iran, are going to surpass the US by a preposterous leap, before the end of this decade.

I used to think that the Soviet Union would be forever. Today, everybody thinks the US is forever. I actually am holding my breath.


(And yes, I know the four weasels will down-vote me. But hey, I'm not here to write stuff that even the most infantile will get.)

Vendicar Dickarian
3 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2012
A functioning and fluid internet/cellular world, is simply not going to happen in the US....

Reading this nonsensical claptrap puts me in the mood to throw around a few words relating to your intelligence level. But I'll be kind.

You are woefully uneducated and ignorant about the topic you claim to have studied. Like many of the anti-American crowd on Physorg, you are simply stating your opinion as though it were some sort of well-researched fact.

First, the U.S. has a very smooth-functioning internet and cellular system, which I have been using since the days of 9600 baud modems and giant brick phones. Access is near-universal, very fast and reasonably expensive.

Second, not a single international analyst, in any nation, agrees with your assessment regarding Mongolia, Iran, etc. Ahmajenidad might be on your side though.

Of course, nothing is forever. Frankly, who cares? Where do you live? Some Utopia?
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2012
Access is near-universal, very fast and reasonably expensive

Yet if you walk to the wrong side of the city, you either lose signal or are slapped with enormous roaming fees. The 3G coverage is quite patchy, very limited, and costs a whole lot of money, and you're tightly tied in to the carriers. Hardly what I'd call fluid and inexpensive. Both the cellphone services and internet services in the US are in a state of market failure because the carriers have too much power over the customers to dictate service prices and options, and little fear of competition. It's a de facto cartel.

In Europe for example, since they've always used GSM instead of CDMA they also get exchangeable SIM cards in all phones, which means you can just go to any supermarket to buy any phone, and it just works with the network by simply slotting the card in. That means the carriers can't obfuscate the prices with "sweet" deals on the phones or lock people in, so they have to compete with cheaper plans.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2012
The iPhone for example had a very rough start in Europe, because Apple wanted to play the exclusives game with local operators - i.e. the carrier sells the phone at a subsidized price to hide how much it really costs, and at the same time charges slightly more for the actual service, and then a bit more still because they're the only ones selling iPhones.

But the people were like, "If it's not going to work with my existing plan, then I'm not buying it." and went for Android phones instead, so Apple had to loosen up and start selling unlocked phones in Europe.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2012
Access is ... expensive.


I also have been using the Internet for a while. So I endured some of the nonsense the folks who are now our ISP cartel tried to impose on us over the years.

Remember the phone companies' lame BRI ISDN offering - slightly faster and way more expensive than the then prevalent analog modems?

Or their absolutely refusing to have anything to do with any sort of DSL service, as it would have competed with their highly profitable T1 service?

Remember the big stink they raised when "competitors" rented copper to then offer DSL service?

Then the legal tactics they used to kill off this competition?

These same companies now provide our cell phone service and act as ISPs.

Is the money we spend on internet service being used efficiently to provide the best possible service? I doubt it.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2012
Remember the big stink they raised when "competitors" rented copper to then offer DSL service?

Yes. At one point I enqueried whether it was possible to get a DSL line and the answer came back that I could, and it would be a steady monthly rate for a 512k service, but the carrier company demanded me to pay by the minute on top of charging rent from the company that offered the service.

They simply did not want DSL on their networks because there were thousands and thousands of analog modem and ISDN customers paying by the minute and spending hours online because of the slow speeds. It took another five years to get DSL at that location, and only because the local government started talking about setting up a WiMax network in the town since the telco wouldn't do s**t about getting them faster service.

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