Comcast Earns Free Press Praise for Essentials Expansion

But group said more needs to be done
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Net activist group Free Press, which has been a frequent critic of Comcast, may be coming around a bit, at least when it comes to the cable operator's Internet Essentials broadband low-cost broadband adoption program.

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Comcast has just announced it is expanding the program to all its customers, adding an additional three million households, about double the old number.

Internet Essentials provides high-speed broadband for $9.95 a month and a subsidized price on a computer to eligible low-income households, which are on some form of government assistance.

“We were an early critic of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which originally was a highly restricted program that seemed designed to win political support for Comcast’s merger aspirations instead of actually helping poor people get online," said Free Press policy manager Dana Floberg. "But we’re encouraged to see that Comcast has transformed Internet Essentials into a program that most of the poor households in its territory can use."

“Comcast’s Internet Essentials expansion means that millions more low-income homes will be able to pay just under $10 per month for broadband," Floberg said. "This is of course welcome news for those who can’t afford any internet connections. But it’s also welcome news for the millions of poor families who do count as connected, but only because one or more members subscribe to a mobile-wireless service. A robust home-broadband connection is vital in today’s always-connected age, particularly for multi-member households and households with children."

But Floberg also said there is much more to do, including making broadband more affordable beyond just poor families to the "millions of other households that are one adverse event away from financial disaster."

She said the $10 price point should be the norm for all entry-level service. "Comcast's news is welcome, but there’s much more work to do to solve the nation’s broadband-affordability problem." 

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