Few companies can compare with Comcast when it comes to greasing the wheels of Washington to get a deal cleared. Less than a month after it announced a $45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable, Comcast said it would extend "indefinitely" its low-cost Internet program.
Launched in May 2011 as part of its NBCUniversal deal, Internet Essentials was set to expire at the end of June. It provides eligible low-income families with $9.95/month Internet service, an option to purchase a computer for under $150 and multiple options for digital literacy training. In two and a half years, Comcast has signed up 1.2 million low-income Americans or 300,000 families.
The extension of the program will undoubtedly win Comcast big brownie points with the administration. Internet Essentials dovetails nicely with President Obama's ConnectED program to increase digital literacy and the Federal Communications Commission's recent plan to invest an additional $2 billion over the next two years to support broadband in schools and libraries.
"This is our signature community investment priority," said Comcast evp David Cohen, during a press call today. In Washington for a couple of days to tout the program, Cohen wouldn't confirm that a meeting with regulators might also be on his agenda.
"My major job is to talk about Internet Essentials," he said.
Still, Cohen couldn't resist observing how great it would be to extend the program to Time Warner Cable's footprint.
"With the recent merger, we see an exciting opportunity to bring Internet Essentials to people in cities like New York and Los Angeles, available in 19 of the nation's 20 largest cities," Cohen said. "We look forward to the benefits of closing the digital divide."