To get their acquisition of NBC approved, Comcast proposed a condition requiring they offer $10 1.5 Mbps broadband to low income homes (dubbed "Internet Essentials"). As we pointed out when the program first surfaced
, Comcast proposed this condition because once potential applicants jump through a number of hoops, Comcast knew that very few low income families would actually qualify. Ultimately, Comcast was forced to expand availability of the program
after low-income Philly residents publicly protested.
Comcast gets massive press mileage out of the program, holding an endless series of PR junkets with local politicians to highlight the company's altruism, and is again using the program as a carrot on a stick to gain regulatory approval of the Time Warner Cable deal. The Washington Post
takes a fresh look at the program's shortfalls, though head Comcast lobbyist David Cohen claims it's not fair to criticize Comcast because they're just "doing a good thing for the right reasons":
"This makes me sigh,” Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said in an interview. “You can criticize us for data consumption caps. You can criticize us because cable bills are too high. You can criticize us because the acquisition of Time Warner Cable will make us too big. I can understand that. But every once in a while, even a big company does a good thing for the right reasons."
A previous Post article indicates that someone at Comcast originally proposed the program but Cohen held it back specifically to get approval of their acquisition of NBC
. According to Comcast, 1.2 million low-income Americans, or 300,000 families, have signed up for the offer. According to a USDA fact sheet
(pdf), the National School Lunch Program served free or discounted lunches to 31 million kids in 2012, so Comcast's program clearly has some growing room.