Comcast throws downloads to 5 Mbps amid complaints its low-income plan is too slow


A Comcast service van parked in front of a residence.
Enlarge / A Comcast service van in October 2014.

Comcast doubles download speeds and increases download speeds for the $ 10-per-month Internet Essentials package it sells to low-income subscribers.

Comcast had been criticized for keeping the plan’s speeds at 25 Mbps and 3 Mbps during the pandemic, even though even those speeds were an increase from the 15 Mbps / 2 Mbps on offer until March 2020. In the announcement of Today, Comcast said it is “doubling the Internet download of the program. speed to 50 Mbps and increasing the upload speed to 5 Mbps for all new and existing customers at no additional cost.”

The speed upgrade “will roll out nationwide starting March 1,” Comcast said.

Low-income users still face Comcast’s 1.2TB data cap, which adds $ 10 to a monthly bill for each additional 50GB block. But over-data limit charges are capped at 30. $ per month for Internet Essentials subscribers, while additional charges can go up to $ 100 for other customers.

Information on how to qualify for Internet Essentials can be found here.

Students complained about low speeds

Although former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai still insists that speeds of 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps are good enough for US home Internet users, at least some customers of the Internet. Comcast’s Internet Essentials disagree.

“As distance learning continued into 2020, the coronavirus pandemic pitted Comcast against an unlikely opponent: a group of teenagers,” BuzzFeed wrote last week. “Since last spring, Baltimore-based student activists have been campaigning for faster internet speeds, arguing that telecom giant’s Wi-Fi offering for low-income households, Internet Essentials, is not always enough fast for successful distance learning. “

In a family with several children who do distance learning, download speeds of 3Mbps can be a problem. High school student Kimberly Vasquez “said it was normal for her to refresh the page a few times before she could even access Zoom,” according to BuzzFeed. “Once she’s inside, she’s often kicked out because of the slow speed.” The student told BuzzFeed that she “needs to talk to my teachers about my Wi-Fi situation and make sure I don’t get penalized for it.”

Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit city councilors also called on Comcast to step up the speed of the low-income plan last summer, the Baltimore Business Journal reported at the time.

More pressure came from former Comcast sales agent Chase Roper, who tweeted on Jan 11, he “just quit working for Xfinity / Comcast” and wants families to know Internet Essentials does not offer “adequate speed for kids to do their work online” Zoom “” . He followed up with a blog post in which he asked, “How can we expect students to learn equally in this situation when some families are able to pay for multiple 1000 Mbps Internet accounts?” at the same address for each of their students while others cannot afford even the minimum download speed that works well with the single provider at their disposal? Why remove all data caps and surcharges at the start of the pandemic, but when the next distance school year begins, continue the policy of data caps and additional fees? “

Comcast advocates for low-income program

Comcast launched Internet Essentials about 10 years ago to seek government approval for its acquisition of NBCUniversal, and it continued the program after the merger condition expired in 2014. Comcast defended its management of the program in its speed upgrade announcement today, calling Internet Essentials “the largest and most comprehensive low-cost Internet adoption program for low-income Americans.”

The new speed increase “is the sixth time in 10 years that Comcast has increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of service at $ 9.95 per month,” the company said. Since the start of the pandemic, Comcast has offered two months free to new Internet Essentials customers and has said it is keeping the deal open until June 30, 2021.

Comcast received praise from consumer advocates at the start of the pandemic when it first offered the two months free and increased Internet Essentials speeds to 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps. But Comcast courted controversy again this month by extending its data cap to all parts of its territory that were not previously capped. Comcast subsequently agreed to delay the application of data caps in the newly capped areas until August 2021 after pressure from lawmakers, including a group of Massachusetts lawmakers trying to ban data caps for the rest of the pandemic.

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