Cable Ops To Follow Comcast's Internet Essentials Model: Sources

According to multiple sources, the Federal Communications Commission is going to announce Wednesday that other major cable industry players and community groups, including One Economy, are joining the nation's largest cable operator, Comcast, in the Internet Essentials model of providing low-cost broadband.

The program, providing digital literacy education and a low-cost computer to every home with a school-age child who qualifies for the nation's free-lunch program, is part of the FCC's Connect to Compete initiative launched last month.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski will announce the industry commitment Wednesday at a D.C. public school. It is described as an "unprecedented effort to address the cost barrier to broadband adoption."

Genachowski last month applauded Comcast for that Internet Essentials program, which retails for $9.95 per month, while calling on the rest of the industry to do all it could to close the digital divide, repeating a call he made at Cable Show 2011 in Chicago last June. Comcast introduced Internet Essentials in Chicago last May.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association almost two years ago proposed an Adoption-Plus (A+) program to offer low-income families with middle school kids half price broadband service and half price modems for two years, plus free installation.

But that program was contingent on government-funded training and education (via broadband stimulus money) and never got off the ground. Comcast executive vice president David Cohen told Multichannel News last month that Comcast -- while supporting A+ -- considered the NCTA effort so contingent on outside actions as to be "a hollow commitment." That's why Comcast created its own effort, he said.

One Economy, which Comcast has backed in efforts to promote low-cost broadband deployment in underserved areas, was honored (via an award to co-founder Rey Ramsey) at the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner last month.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.