Is this announcement designed to help Comcast polish its image as a good corporate citizen while it lobbies the government to approve its $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable? Of course. But it’s still noteworthy considering how big the company is, and how important the digital divide has become. The cable colossus says that it will expand “indefinitely” its Internet Essentials program that offers those who qualify the opportunity to buy broadband service for about $10 a month, and a computer for less than $150. It also will provide $1M to non-profits that create Internet Essentials Learning Zones. The Essentials program began in 2011 as a three-year commitment to help win FCC approval for Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. Now it serves about 300,000 low income families, or 1.2M people — which EVP David Cohen says is “about the population of Dallas, Texas or the state of Maine.” He couldn’t resist noting that if the TWC deal closes it would “bring the benefits of Internet Essentials to millions of additional families” in 19 of the 20 largest cities. “That’s going to be a tremendous enhancement.” In conjunction with the announcement, Comcast released a report by former FCC National Broadband Plan research head John Horrigan who found, among other things, that 98% of Essentials users signed up because their kids need broadband for school.
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