If you are a subscriber of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, we’re certain you feel fortunate to have it. It’s not easy to find 5Mbps internet service for $9.95 a month. Obviously, you’ll want to hang on to it as long as possible.
You’ll need to maintain your eligibility, and you’ll also need to make sure you don’t do anything that gives them an excuse to terminate your plan. Let’s review some things you should be aware of.
Maintaining eligibility requirements
To qualify for Internet Essentials, you must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (including reduced price school lunches). This includes parochial, private, cyber-school, and home-schooled students who would qualify. In addition, there is an instant approval process for families whose students attend schools with 70 percent or more National School Lunch Program participation.
If you no longer have a child who qualifies, you are no longer able to participate in the Internet Essentials program. How do they know if this occurs? Each year each Internet Essentials subscriber is required to reconfirm their household’s current eligibility by providing up-to-date documentation. Failing to provide documentation proving eligibility will make you ineligible to participate from that point on.
So, when you get a notice from Comcast/Internet Essentials to confirm your eligibility, do not delay or neglect doing it. Make sure you fill it out correctly and send exactly the paperwork they request.
Pay your bill on time
It goes without saying that you need to pay your bill. But the problem is, we don’t know how much leeway you get with late payments. Don’t take a risk, and make sure you always pay the bill on time. It would be best if you can set it up as an auto-payment.
To be specific, in their Terms and Conditions, they say they can cancel your participation in the plan if “you fail to maintain your Comcast account in good standing.” That’s fairly ambiguous, so best not to test exactly what it means.
Be Careful of an Change of Address
Of course if you move to an area that is not served by Comcast cable internet, then you won’t be able to continue with the program. But, surprisingly, you can still lose it if you move somewhere that Comcast does serve. We’re not sure how to interpret when they would actually enforce this, but here is the rule: “A change in address may result in your account being closed, even if you continue to receive Comcast services at a different address.”
All we can say is that if you are going to move, call up Internet Essentials and discuss this with them — don’t just move and then ask for them to give you service at the new address. We assume you will be able to take your internet with you if you properly notify them, but given their rule, we can’t say for sure.
Don’t Attempt to Upgrade your Internet Essentials Plan
Don’t ask for any changes to you service. Don’t ask for faster speed, or anything else. We found this nugget in the Terms and Conditions:
“Program participation also may be terminated if the Covered Service is upgraded, altered or changed by you for any reason.”
How long will Internet Essentials be around?
Internet Essentials was created as a condition of approval for Comcast to merge with NBC-Universal in 2011. Initially, they said they would keep the program running three years. Fortunately, in 2014 Comcast announced that they would make the program available to eligible people “indefinitely.”
Keep in mind that the 2014 extension announcement was made a month after Comcast announced its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable. That’s important to note because Comcast undoubtedly wants to make the FCC happy so they can gain approval for their acquisition. Our take is that if the FCC blesses the acquisition, one condition will be to continue providing Internet Essentials. If the FCC denies them, all bets are off.