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Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, is allowing groups and nonprofits to buy prepaid cards for its Internet Essentials broadband service.
Recent press releases say the option will roll out in the second half of 2013.
Comcast is required to offer Internet Essentials to qualifiying families and customers. Criteria are:
- Have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program
- Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days
- Not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment
The eligibility also includes families with home-schooled students and those with students in private or parochial schools. Since starting the service, Comcast has enrolled more than 150,000 families, representing a total of 600,000 low-income Americans (including 300,000 children), the company disclosed recently.
The offer means eligible homes pay $9.95 per month for Internet service measuring 3 Mbps.
Comcast itself recognizes the service is essential in bridging the “digital divide.” It said it's seen broadband adoption in higher-income areas reaching around 90 percent of households. While in lower income areas, the rate of adoption approaches 15 to 20 percent of households.
See this a blog post for a recent Comcast blog post on that topic.
The Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards will provide “yet another way to accelerate enrollment by empowering community-based partners, businesses and foundations to help connect families to the Internet,” Comcast said in a statement.
Comcast Corp. is alerting viewers in Spokane who still receive analog, non-digital TV signals for limited basic cable that they need new boxes to watch those programs in digital format.
Getting the digital equipment costs nothing, said Comcast spokesman Walt Neary, provided a customer doesn't need more than three digital receivers.
In 2009 Comcast moved its standard cable lineup — channels 30 to 70 — to the digital format.
The last step, taking place near the first of April, is the conversion of analog channels 2-30, 72-79 and 95-99.
Neary estimated the Spokane area has roughly 2,500 homes or customers who still use receive limited basic in analog format.
Like all other major cable companies, Comcast is making the change so that it can use bandwidth for more channels and more services for customers.
Here's the Comcast summary of the key step:
To continue receiving limited basic channels, customers need a digital cable box or a Digital Transport Adapter. Similar to Comcast’s offer when we upgraded the expanded basic service to digital, we’re providing up to three Digital Transport Adapters, small cable equipment we call DTAs, for our Limited Basic customers at no charge.
To get the equipment, customers can call 877-634-4434 or log on to www.comcast.com/digitalnow.