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Comcast to Offer $9.95 Broadband to Low-Income Households

Comcast has "amplified" its public interest commitments to the Comcast/NBCU deal, according to an ex parte filing at the FCC, including providing low-cost broadband, agreeing to carry must-carry noncom stations who give up spectrum and pledging that NBC stations will team up with non-profit news organizations.

That pledge came Dec. 22, the day before the FCC announced it was approving the deal subject to a number of public interest conditions and a vote by the full commission, which is expected to OK the deal in January.

Comcast's "amplifications" include providing high-speed Internet service to low-income households for $9.95 per month, with no intall or modem fees.

In addition, it will agree until 2017 to continue carrying public broadcasting stations who agree to give up their broadcast spectrum as part of the FCC's efforts to reclaim spectrum for wireless broadband.

In San Diego, NBC's KNSD has set up a cooporative news arrangement with local online news nonprofit, and Comcast has pledged that within a year of the deal's close, half of the 10 owned stations will have similar cooperative arrangements in place.

Comcast made
clear that no NBC station would be obligated to run any of the content
from the nonprofit partner, and that the decision would be at the
discretion of NBCU and its stations.

The partnerships will be maintained for at least the first three years after the deal.

Comcast made other broadband deployments in addition to the spectrum-less must carry proposal.

It will: 1) "expand its existing network by at least 1,500 miles per year for the next three years (2011, 2012, and 2013), making broadband Internet available to an estimated 400,000 additional homes" 2) "upgrade for Internet service at least six additional rural communities in 2011" and 3) "provide an additional 600 courtesy video and high-speed
Internet account locations (for schools, libraries, and other community
institutions, targeted to underserved areas in which broadband
penetration is low and there is a high concentration
of low-income residents) over the next three years, at a rate of 200
additional locations per year."

Comcast will assume all of the
construction costs to deliver broadband to those locations, it said.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.