Comcast has officially expanded its low-cost Internet Essentials program nationwide today. This service offers $10 per month internet access to low-income families, as well as access to $150 computers. The speeds aren’t what users of the regular cable internet service will see, at just 1.5Mbps, but Comcast has agreed to keep Internet Essentials alive for at least three years.
Remember Jim Carrey as the Cable Guy? He was obnoxious, overstepped numerous boundaries, and even broke a few laws. Be he never stole jewelry from Matthew Broderick. Perhaps Hollywood viewed such an act as too low for the big screen, one in which a cable company adds insult to injury by having its customers wait around all day for an installer to show up, only to have valuables go missing at the end of the day. It wasn't too low for Comcast.
When Comcast scooped up NBC Universal earlier this year, regulatory officials made the Internet service provider promise to boost its broadband coverage to include 2.5 million low income households at a price of less than $10 per month (among many other conditions - PDF). Comcast is making good on that promise by rolling out its Internet Essentials program, which offers high-speed Internet to qualifying families for $9.95.
Does Facebook, as a company, make your blood boil? What about MySpace? And should we even bother asking about Comcast, one of the largest cable companies in the world, and also No. 4 on the list of companies customers hate most, as indicated in the American Customer Satisfaction Index? Those three scored 64, 63, and 59, respectively, on a 0-100 scale intended to represent company-level satisfaction.
While so-called “three strikes laws” have been passed in several countries to kick those repeatedly accused of copyright infringement off the Internet, Cnet is reporting that some US ISPs are not waiting for the government to impose such a system. Several companies including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are reportedly deep in talks with entertainment companies to establish tough punishments for alleged file sharers.
Nobody at Comcast was tarred and feathered after the ISP was voted worst company in America last year by readers of Consumerist.com. They didn't have to be; turns out the shame of finishing behind every other company in the country is motivation enough to try and improve things, and the way Comcast plans to do that is by shortening its cable repair and installation windows in all markets from as much as four hours to no more than hours in 2012.
Remember the days when unlimited Internet connections were just that? Unlimited? I’m not talking about a generational gap here—it seems like but a few years ago, that $40, or $60, or $80 you shuffled away to your favorite Internet service provider each month got you true unlimited Internet. You could download Linux distros until your router exploded; stream movies until your eyes exploded; play Counter-Strike until your… well, OK, Counter-Strike never really did use up that much bandwidth.
We live in different times now. Each bit and byte of data you transmit has an effective price tag: You’re paying for unlimited service so long as you, like many others, ignore the fine print that specifically tells you just how much unlimited service you’re going to get until your ISP gets pissy. Look, we can both agree that this practice is a complete joke, and it’s just one more way for your data providers to slowly squeeze the noose until we’re all paying $10 per picture we download on our mobile phones.
But is it really that bad?
It goes without saying that America’s Internet infrastructure (and pricing models) can vary wildly from those found in the rest of the world. But let’s not end the comparison with just a throwaway statement like that: How do American ISPs fare against their cross-cultural brethren? Does it get much worse than this… or better?
Have you ever been watching a video download and found yourself saying, "You know, I'd really love it if I could download 23 episodes of this show in the time it took me to get to the end of the intro credits"? No? Us either. Nevertheless, faster Internet is always better Internet, and with a 1Gbps download rate, the cutting-edge cable technology demonstrated today by Comcast's CEO can fulfill almost anybody's need for speed.
The Justice League of America is a collection of super heroes working together to fight the evils of the world and protect us from those who would otherwise do us harm. And the Download Fairness Coalition, who we will henceforth abbreviate DFC? That's a collection of tech giants, cable operators, telecoms, and other entities whose common goal is a little more self-serving -- to fight against "discriminatory taxes of digital goods and services" -- but perhaps equally needed.
We reported on Wednesday that Meredith Baker, one of the FCC commissioners who approved the NBC-Comcast merger, will be leaving her post to work for – you guessed it – Comcast. Don't forget to shut the "Impartial Agent of the Government" door behind you, Meredith.
The media has pretty soundly crapped on the move. The negative feedback isn't surprising – especially once you consider that Baker spent the entire approval process whining about the length of the process and trying to rubber-stamp the deal. Today, Baker released a statement in her defense.