Effective October 10, 2019, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will move to the Sports Entertainment Package and will no longer be included in its current service package(s). Customers will have to purchase the Sports Entertainment Package for approximately $10 per month to wartch TCM. Comcast is notifying impacted customers of these changes through a bill message.
COMCAST ANNOUNCES LARGEST EVER EXPANSION OF ITS INTERNET ESSENTIALS PROGRAM TO REACH ALL LOW-INCOME AMERICANS
Three Million Newly Eligible Households Include Those with Disabilities and Seniors
In Eight Years, the Program Has Now Connected More Than Eight Million People From Two Million Households to the Internet at Home
PHILADELPHIA, PA – August 6, 2019 – Comcast announced today it is significantly expanding eligibility for Internet Essentials, which is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, and most successful broadband adoption program in America, to include all qualified low-income households in its service area. The expansion is the most significant change in the program’s history. The Company estimates that more than three million additional low-income households, including households with people with disabilities, are now eligible to apply. It estimates a total of nearly seven million households now have access to low-cost Internet service, which literally doubles the total number of previously eligible households. In addition, the company announced that, since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than eight million low-income individuals, from two million households, to the Internet at home, most for the first time in their lives. Today’s announcement follows 11 prior eligibility expansions, including last year’s extension of the program to low-income veterans.
“This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal. “The Internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource. Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”
To be eligible to apply to the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different government assistance programs. These include: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A full list of these programs can be found at www.internetessentials.com. The Company already accepts applications from households that have a student eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, live in public housing or receive HUD Housing Assistance, including Section 8 vouchers, or participate in the Veterans Pension Program, as well as low-income seniors and community college students in select pilot markets.
According to U.S. Census data, households living in cities with the highest poverty rates, are up to 10 times more likely than those in higher earning communities not to have fixed broadband at home. For example, in Palo Alto, California, or Bethesda, Maryland – where poverty rates are very low – only about six percent of households do not have a broadband Internet subscription – 94 percent are connected. But in Trenton, New Jersey, and Flint, Michigan – where poverty rates are way above the national average – 60 percent or more of households do not have fixed broadband at home – that is, less than half are connected. That gap of more than 50 points defines the digital divide in this country.
Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to every day life needs, and fear of the Internet, the lack of a computer, and cost. As a result, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners. For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.
The most significant barrier to broadband adoption in low-income communities remains a basket of digital literacy deficits, lack of digital awareness, and fear of the Internet. To help address this barrier, since 2011, Comcast has invested more than $650 million to support digital literacy training and awareness, reaching more than 9.5 million low-income Americans. In addition, the company has either sold or donated more than 100,000 discounted and heavily subsidized computers to families and veterans that need one.
About Comcast Corporation
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with three primary businesses: Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Sky. Comcast Cable is one of the United States’ largest video, high-speed Internet, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses. It also provides wireless and security and automation services to residential customers under the Xfinity brand. NBCUniversal is global and operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts. Sky is one of Europe’s leading media and entertainment companies, connecting customers to a broad range of video content through its pay television services. It also provides communications services, including residential high-speed Internet, phone, and wireless services. Sky operates the Sky News broadcast network and sports and entertainment networks, produces original content, and has exclusive content rights. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.
Charlie Douglas Rachel Zabinski
(215) 264-8020 (215) 531-4438
Don’t fret, cable news junkies. Just get digital.
By Freda Moon
Earlier this month, Comcast cable subscribers across Connecticut who tuned in to C-SPAN 2 found a distressing color-block test pattern in place of old white men pounding gavels. The cable channel that once carried coverage of the Senate and BookTV’s conversations with authors was gone.
The space C-SPAN 2 took up has since been replaced with a slew of high-definition channels, including Discovery Channel HD, USA Network HD, The History Channel HD, A&E HD and the Food Network HD. The decision was made, according to Comcast spokeswoman Laura A. Brubaker, because of the “tremendous interest for more HD viewing choices.”
Like a lousy swimmer caught by the tides, C-SPAN 2 has been displaced—at least temporarily—by technological change. In recent years, cable TV has been in competition not only with broadcast television but satellite services and the internet. The response has been a widespread shift in the cable industry, which is rapidly moving from analog to digital transmission. Because analog channels consume such a large amount of space (or bandwidth), cable companies can offer far more “features” when channels are transmitted digitally—eight to 12 digital or up to three high-def channels for every analog channel. More channels make for happier customers.
Comcast will still offer C-SPAN 2 to customers who subscribe to digital cable, where there’s room for far more channels and better image quality. Comcast’s marketing emphasizes that digital cable costs the same amount as the company’s standard cable package (though digital comes with a $3.99 a month charge for the box and remote) and offers more buzz words to a feature-happy American public: Interactive programming! On-demand content! Digital music channels!
C-SPAN, which was created in 1979 as a private, non-profit, cable television industry-funded, public service station, has had ups and downs in its almost 30-year history. But because it’s a non-profit, the company is better able to weather changes that might threaten advertising-based media. While Comcast’s move means that C-SPAN no longer reaches as many homes as it once did—a blow to Connecticut’s Robert Byrd fans—C-SPAN itself will not suffer.
“Though we’re disappointed to be available at this point in fewer homes,” said C-SPAN Vice President Peter Kiley by phone from Washington, D.C., “we recognize that Comcast is entering the transition to digital and we’re pleased that they’re making it relatively easy for C-SPAN fans to get digital boxes and access to C-SPAN networks.”
For analog devotees or those too broke to dish out an additional $47.88 a year for digital cable, all three C-SPAN channels stream live on C-SPAN’s website (c-span.org). ¡Viva la media libre!
Companies, People, Ideas
The People Vs. Comcast
01.28.08, 12:00 AM ET
Brian Roberts excels at turning power over his customers into profits for his shareholders. Now that power is slipping from his grasp.
When Ralph Roberts ran his first cable television system, in tiny Tupelo, Miss., he became something of a local hero. In 1963 the birth of HBO was still a decade off, but for Tupelites, frustrated by having over-the-air episodes of the The Jack Benny Program and Gunsmoke ruined by static, Roberts’ service was a godsend. Would-be subscribers chased his installers’ trucks down the street, begging for the chance to pay $5 a month for a clear, reliable picture.
Forty-five years later Brian Roberts has replaced his father at the helm of Comcast, and resentment has replaced gratitude in their customers’ hearts.
The younger Roberts tightly restricts what his subscribers can and cannot do. Like other cable chiefs, Roberts insists his customers buy TV channels in bulk, not individually. He led a behind-the-scenes battle to prevent cable subscribers from getting their hands on souped-up set-top boxes designed by other companies. And Comcast recently began interfering with customers’ use of Internet peer-to-peer programs.
In each case regulators, competitors and customers screamed in protest. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has tried to force Comcast to offer viewers more flexibility in choosing which channels they buy. The head of the Consumer Electronics Association likens Roberts’ behavior to Henry viii’s. One 75-year-old customer grew so livid that she walked into a Comcast office and started smashing computers with a hammer.
And yet all that fury has changed nothing. Comcast made $1.7 billion on $23 billion in revenue during the first nine months of 2007, up 14% and 28%. The business of getting video to American homes remains a cozy oligopoly, with power firmly in the hands of the network owners. Consumers choose among nearly identical plans from one cable outfit, two satellite systems and, in a few markets, the phone company.
But rebellion is afoot. With stunning speed, the Internet is emerging as an alternative for the mass distribution of television and movies. The Net promises to upend the cable industry, stripping power from Roberts and handing it to his customers.
Huge companies–Level 3, Walt Disney, VeriSign–have started “content delivery networks” dedicated to one thing: delivering smooth and reliable digital video over the Net. In the past year this unfettered competition has slashed the cost of delivering an hourlong TV episode by half, to roughly 15 cents. Established bit-delivery companies such as Akamai and LimeLight could soon cut prices to keep pace.
All four broadcast networks now stream most of their shows free online. Many cable channels have followed suit. A few viewers, such as Nashville resident Christy Nicholson, have responded by canceling their Comcast television service. Nicholson now uses iTunes and Hulu, the online venture from NBC and Fox, to watch Monkand 30 Rock. “I’m not willing to pay what Comcast charges to get the channels I would want,” says Nicholson, a 27-year-old online retail entrepreneur.
Of course, Nicholson and people like her still have to purchase their high-speed Internet connections, often from the cable company. But this shift from selling programming to selling mere transmission cannot be good for the cable industry. The more cable looks like a utility the closer it gets to price wars or, worse, price regulation by the government.
Roberts declines to be interviewed, but he has been upbeat about the future of cable. Asked about Internet video at an investor conference in May, he responded with breezy optimism: “It is not even on the radar of possibility–at this time.”
Brian Roberts was born to Ralph and Suzanne Roberts in 1959. Looking to provide a better life for his young family, Ralph got out of the belt business and into the nascent cable business. The elder Roberts bought up dozens of small cable systems and hired his son out of college in 1981.
The younger Roberts first distinguished himself in 1995 when his industry appointed the then 35-year-old to preside over its main lobbying group. Roberts persuaded Congress to deregulate cable prices, setting the stage for a decade of wild growth and making the young executive a hero to his compatriots.
But in exchange for price deregulation, Congress demanded that cable companies let customers buy set-top boxes from any electronics outfit. Cable operators had always blocked other companies’ equipment from connecting to their networks. Cable guys make good money renting set-tops and like to control the onscreen program guides.
Somehow that demand never turned to much action on the cable industry’s part. Roberts resorted to 11 years of foot-dragging. He and his lobbyists repeatedly assured the FCC they supported greater consumer choice in set-tops while simultaneously citing a series of technical reasons for keeping cable networks closed. “It is the longest example of an industry trying to diddle the government in history. It was unconscionable,” says Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association.
Roberts was equally successful in opposing regulatory efforts to force cable companies to sell channels à la carte. Last year FCC Chairman Martin made unbundled cable service one of his chief goals. Roberts refused to budge, arguing that the traditional system of selling channels in tiers has provided diverse programming for consumers and saves them money. Martin’s efforts to goad Congress into action are stalled.
Now Roberts faces the biggest threat to Comcast’s power yet. New technology is already beginning to do what competitors and regulators never could: weaken Roberts’ ability to control how his customers watch TV.
So far the number of cable cord cutters is too small to measure. Still, Web viewing is clearly catching on, thanks to increasing picture quality and faster downloads. In a recent Nielsen survey 39% of 18- to 34-year-olds reported they watched at least one full episode online in the past three months. Web TV makes canceling pricey cable service ever more appealing. A Comcast customer paying $100 per month for Internet and digital television service could save $60 per month by tossing the latter. She would, however, miss most of the shows on Comcast’s basic cable tier, on channels like the Food Network and Oxygen that don’t regularly stream their shows online.
But these days consumer-shackling communications networks can be busted open overnight. In November mighty Google announced plans for an “open” cell phone with software controlled by users. Within a month the big cellular network operators accustomed to restricting what users could do with their phones meekly agreed to void their old restrictions.
Now Google, Apple or another Silicon Valley insurgent could do the same thing in television, building a box that can grab video from both cable and the Web. Google won’t comment on its plans, but it recently hired a veteran set-top box software designer.