Comcast provides low-cost internet to bridge “digital divide”

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Comcast announced on Tuesday that it will “indefinitely” continue its Internet Essentials programme, which provides affordable internet access to disadvantaged families, according to a PC World report.

The scheme offers low-cost internet service for US$9.95 a month. Subscribers can also opt to buy a personal computer for an additional US$150.

Since its introduction in 2011, the programme has benefitted more than 1.2 million low-income Americans, which equals around 300,000 households. Upload and download speeds at the programme’s inception were merely 384 Kbps and 1.5 Mbps respectively. These speeds have now reached one Mbps and five Mbps, according to the largest internet service provider in the US.

In addition, Comcast will establish Internet Essentials Learning Zones in communities that have strived to gain internet access despite their meagre resources. New clients in these areas may subscribe for six months’ worth of free internet access.

Bridging the digital divide is a top priority for Comcast because it “has the power to transform lives, strengthen communities, and inspire a new generation of leaders,” said Executive Vice President David Cohen.

Meanwhile, the internet giant is trying to persuade the US Securities and Exchange Commission to approve its acquisition of Time Warner Cable for US$45.2 billion. If the deal pushes through, Comcast will gain about eight million subscribers, boosting its total to 30 million.

However, the agreement is being opposed by consumer groups who claim that Comcast will wield too much power in the market if the deal proceeds as planned.

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