These are good days to be an Internet Essentials subscriber. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say these are bad days to be a regular cable subscriber.
Because Comcast is raising the average monthly bill by 3.4% for Xfinity subscribers in Philadelphia region, New Jersey, and northern Delaware. Since Philadelphia is where the company is headquartered, consumers fear that this could be the start of a nationwide trend.
The higher bills will hit customers across the board. Those who subscribe to Comcast cable TV, those who subscribe to its internet service, those who subscribe to its phone services, and those who subscribe to any combination of its services.
According to Wall Street, Comcast earns $137 a month from “customer relationships”. A little basic math tells us that the average customer can expect to pay an extra $4.65 per month with the new rates.
Luckily, the new rates will not hit customers who signed up for Xfinity promotional plans.
Jeff Alexander, a Comcast spokeperson, said the price-increase calculation a “weighted average.” Translation: Some folks will get hit with increase higher than $4.65 per month while others will get off comparatively lightly.
philly.com reports that this is just the beginning of the bad news for Comcast customers. “Comcast also boosted fees, including those for installation, upgrades, downgrades, and additional outlets. The fee for an in-home service visit by a technician for TV service will jump 15 percent, to $37.05.”
Believe it or not, Comcast’s increases start to look pretty sweet compared to those coming from DirecTV, the nation’s second-largest pay-TV company. It just announced even heftier average price increases of 5.7% or $6.10 per month.
The average monthly charge for DirecTV subscribers is $107 a month. A 5.7 percent increase would be an additional $6.10 per month.
Internet Essentials escapes price increases
Customers of Internet Essentials, a Comcast program designed to reduce the Digital Divide that separates rich Americans from poor ones, has escaped the price increases that plague the cable industry.
“We have worked very hard to hold down price adjustments,” Alexander noted, “and there are no price changes for our Limited Basic, Digital Preferred, or Internet Essentials services.”
Comcast seems quite content to continue charging eligible customers the same price it has always charged — just $9.95 per month. For that very affordable price, participants get high-speed internet service, the ability to buy laptop and desktop computers for less than $150, and a wide range of digital literacy classes.
What, you may ask, are digital literacy classes? Simple. They are a series of hands-on classes offered by public service organizations across the country. You can learn — either in person with a hands-on instructor or over the internet from the privacy of your own home — how to use the computers and how to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.
For example, Microsoft offers a broad range of digital literacy classes. Its website describes them like this: “The goal of Microsoft Digital Literacy is to teach and assess basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
In other words, you’ll learn how to use computers and the internet to find a job, to stay in touch with medical professionals, to check your children’s progress in school, and much, much more.
And to repeat, Comcast is NOT raising prices on this excellent program (and hasn’t, for that matter, raised prices since the program was created several years ago).
Internet Essentials customers happy, others not so happy
It’s a good thing Comcast is working overtime to keep its Internet Essentials customers happy, because they appear to be among a very small percentage of satisfied cable customers.
As ArsTechnica.com reports, “Comcast and Time Warner Cable are the most hated companies in each of the three “triple play” markets where they operate, according to an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report being released Tuesday.”
The two largest cable companies, who have a merger in the works, come in at the opposite end of the scale in terms of customer satisfaction. They may rank at the top in terms of size, but customers rank them last and next to last in internet service market, subscription TV and fixed-line telephone service. Comcast and TWC also ranked poorly in 2013, but failed in their efforts to improve customer service and drop significantly in customer satisfaction again last year.
ArsTechnical.com reported the disappointing results of an ACSI report:
“Time Warner Cable lags behind the entire industry following its second consecutive yearly decline, down seven percent to an all-time low of 56 [on the ACSI’s 100-point scale]… The combination of low and downward-trending customer satisfaction for both Comcast and Time Warner Cable is cause for concern amid merger talks between the two companies. The issue at stake is not that the proposed merger will limit competition, as the service territories of the two companies do not overlap. Instead, it is the question of whether a combination of two pay-TV providers with such poor records could possibly create a better customer experience, especially given the volume of evidence from ACSI data suggesting that mergers in service industries tend to damage satisfaction—at least in the short term.”
To make matters even worse, Comcast and Time Warner Cable suffered a double whammy when they were ranked as the worst-rated companies in the most hated industries. Out of more than 40 industries surveyed by ACSI, subscription TV and internet service ranked dead last, and landline telephone service also finished in the bottom 10.
Keep inexpensive internet coming, Comcast
Although Comcast continues to suffer though some absolutely horrible customer service problems, it’s a very promising sign that they have maintained stable, low prices for its Internet Essentials program.
More than 1.2 million low-income American families have already signed up for the company’s low-cost, high-speed Internet Essentials service. Tens of thousands of low-income American families have taken advantage of its low-cost computer program. And even more have signed up for the program’s digital literacy courses.
Hey, Comcast, we know that no one asked us, but considering how happy your Internet Essential customers seem to be compared to your other customers, maybe you should promote the people in charge of IE and put them in charge of the rest of the company, too.