Comcast just announced two major enhancements to its Internet Essentials program.
First, any eligible family who is approved for Internet Essentials between August 4 and September 20, 2013 will get up to six months of free service.
Second, the company eliminated the rule that prohibited accounts for anyone with a past due Comcast balance. Now Comcast will waive that rule if the outstanding bill is more than a year old. If a family meets all the other eligibility requirements, Comcast will forgive that debt and accept the family’s Internet Essentials application.
To review: Internet Essentials offers broadband service for $9.95 a month. It also provides an option to buy an internet-ready computer for tad less than $150. And finally, it offers a wide range of free digital literacy training.
Who’s eligible? Any family with at least one child who’s eligible for the National School Lunch Program.
These two enhancements should go a long way toward soothing the nerves of consumer activists, who often complain that Comcast just hasn’t done enough for those Americans who are teetering on the edge of a financial abyss. However, as consumerist.com reports, they still have issues:
Back in March, outreach workers who specialize in helping low-income families access services told Consumerist that the two biggest challenges for getting families enrolled are actually other requirements. The first big block is that new subscribers to Internet Essentials must not have had any Comcast package in the past 90 days. Because there are basically never different, competing cable services to call, that means a family wishing to enroll in Internet Essentials must first spend at least three months without any service at home at all.
The second challenge is getting connected. Internet Essentials has a different phone number and website from Comcast’s regular customer service. When consumers who hear about “the cheap internet” call Comcast’s regular customer service line, they usually get sold a low-level “standard” package instead of getting redirected to call the other number. And having been sold that package, even if they cancel it a few days later, resets that 90-day no-service window.
David L. Cohen is a Comcast Executive Vice President and the biggest cheerleader for Internet Essentials.
“Internet Essentials is about transforming lives and inspiring a new generation of leaders to be digitally ready to access the information and tools all students need to succeed in the 21st century,” he said. “By offering six months of free Internet Essentials service, along with an amnesty program, we hope to convince even more families that there is no better school supply than having broadband Internet at home. With it, kids can do their homework and parents can be more connected to their children’s teachers and schools.”
Cohen travels the country promoting Internet Essentials to school districts and community service organizations and it appears that his tireless efforts are paying off. Handsomely.
According to PCMag.com, “… more than 350,000 families, or about 1.4 million low-income Americans, have taken advantage of the Internet Essentials program. The program is available in 39 states, and the District of Columbia.”
And now Comcast is offering even more to all those people in all those places.
To learn how to sign up, go to our Internet Essentials page.