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First look: Comcast's honorable 3 megabits for $10 for the poor
Saturday, 14 April 2012 14:09
David Cohen ComcastDavid Cohen is on a mission to make broadband affordable for poor families. He has strong backing from his CEO Brian Roberts. He's raised the speed of the discounted service from a back of the bus rate designed to limit watching video over the net to an HD friendly 3 megabits. Comcast also changed a half-dozen requirements that had meant many applicants were rejected. They are doing massive promotion working with the schools.

    Two obstacles remain and Cohen set a path forward on each. Current customers don't qualify, but Cohen reminded us that nothing prevents the family from switching to the telco service, as soon as the telcos match the program. Verizon and AT&T just got a $2B/year favor from the FCC in USF/ICC; if Julius can't leverage that into affordable telco broadband for the poor, he should resign and fire Josh Gottheimer along the way.

   Comcast also excludes families who owe Comcast for old unpaid bills. Cohen pointed out that Comcast in the ordinary course of business settles old bills for whatever they can collect and urged prospects to negotiate a reasonable settlement. I've no evidence of how it works in practice and we'll need to see results, but they've shown good faith so far.

    Kudos also to Cablevision who promise to provide a standard 10-12 meg rather than the semi-crippled rates expected from Time Warner and others. Julius scheduled the cable discount program to launch in the fall in time for the election. That could backfire if they don't drastically change the rules, as Comcast has. Good reporters including Bob Fernandez and Karl Bode made mincemeat of the early, inadequate Comcast program. If the President associates himself with the fall program as currently planned, Ed Wyatt in the Times or Cecilia Kang at WP could make him out a hypocrite. Fewer than 15% of the poor will be reached, in many cases with back of the bus speeds. The telcos need to be included and the fine print that excludes so many needs eliminating.

   Hundreds of thousands of families stand to benefit from the Comcast deal.