Comcast rolls out $10 web access for low income households

Summary:Comcast is rolling out broadband to low-income families, with kids who receive free school meals, as a result of regulator requirements.

Comcast, the internet and cable giant, is offering just under $10 a month web access and discounted computer vouchers to low-income families.

Dubbed 'Internet Essentials', it will be available in Comcast areas -- currently in 39 states -- and supplied to those who meet certain low-income requirements.

In short: if you child receives free school lunches, then it's likely your family will be eligible to take this offer.

Similar to AT&T's Naked DSL program, following the merger with BellSouth, regulators are more switched on to the needs of developing areas and less economically developed neighbourhoods.

Families could also get vouchers towards a computer costing less than $149. With this, however, it could force many low-income families into purchasing computers second-hand, or not at all, as many computer manufacturers fail to recognise prices to this point.

Subscribers will be given access to free digital literacy training and anti-virus software -- provided at a vastly discounted and subsidised rate.

There will be no rise in fees, activation costs or equipment rental fees for the home infrastructure.

For the 2011/12 academic year, beginning in September, families which make less than $29,055 would qualify, making up around 60 per cent of the 300,000-plus students in a Miami school system.

Provided that families of students, who must be in grades K-12, do not have any outstanding Comcast bills or hoarding equipment, families should be good to go.

Regulators, during the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal earlier this year, put down requirements to help low-income households get access to the web. Considering Comcast's 51 per cent revenue boost this year to $14.3 billion, there is no doubt that the company can afford the new subsidy.

Households with eligible school children will be signed up for three years until the 2012/14 academic year -- provided households are still eligible.

It is not clear -- perhaps ominously -- what will happen to the service if users fall outside of the eligibility zone.

Related content:

Topics: Banking, Browser, Enterprise Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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