Comcast's Low-Income Family Internet Aid Program Is Brilliant, Despite Corporate Motivations
I grew up with reduced price lunch, free bus passes provided by the school district, charity sneakers. I'm no stranger to food banks or Goodwill, and I wasn't going because I had trendy thrifting urges, but because of necessity. When I was 12, I remember having to start a conversation between my teachers and my mother because the lack of Internet access on our crotchety old home computer meant I had to figure out a different homework approach from some of my more relatively well-off classmates. This isn't a cry me a river story — it's just some facts. It's also why, when a decade later I heard about Comcast's Internet Essentials plan — a program which offers low-income families Internet access for very low prices — I felt a rare gleam of affection for a giant corporation that usually elicits little more than a side-eye. Now, Comcast announced that program's being extended — indefinitely.
To qualify for the program families must, according to the official website, 1) live where Comcast offers service, 2) have at least one kid eligible for the National School Lunch Program, 3) have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days, 4) not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment." The entire thing is about ten bucks a month, and according to Deadline it also works to get families a computer for less than $150. So far it's estimated to serve about 1.2 million people, or about 300,000 families.
I know this program is probably not perfect — there are likely kinks or exclusions. For example, that 90-day rule doesn't seem all that convenient for low-income families who were already on Comcast but need to switch over, or for those who have overdue Comcast bills because they are so eligible and in need of the program. And then there's one of the big ones: This is almost definitely a PR move by Comcast to draw attention from its bajillion (read: $45.2 billion) acquisition of Time Warner Cable. And going back, the entire thing was started in large part as a way to win the FCC over during their acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011. Basically, it's a distraction on Comcast's quest for complete corporate takeover, and, well, that's something that's earned a hell of a side-eye.
But honestly? Comcast's motivations aside, let's just claim our own biases here: Where my heart really lies has always been and will always be with low-income families like the one that raised me. And this program? It makes that annoyed little 12-year-old I once was a little comforted to know that there might be a few kids saved from that feeling of inadequacy, and who will get to wile the hours away on Tumblr, like a proper teenager.