Comcast to Offer Six Months of Free Internet Essentials Service and Announces Amnesty Plan for Back Due Balances
Three years ago we connected our first Internet Essentials family. This was our initial step in a huge undertaking, and we were a little nervous. No company had ever tried to implement a program of this size or scope in the United States – no Internet service provider, no non-profit, no telecom company, not even the federal government. While we knew we didn’t have all the answers, we looked at what the research told us.
It showed that approximately 30% of Americans do not subscribe to high-speed Internet service at home. About 7% of them live in rural communities that don’t have broadband infrastructure built, but about 23% live in areas where the service is literally available on the street in front of their homes. It was that 23% we thought we could do something about. The research also told us there are deeply entrenched barriers to broadband adoption that would be challenging to overcome. The number one barrier by a mile is digital literacy and a lack of the perceived relevance and value of Internet service. This is followed by the cost of computer equipment and the cost of home Internet service. These barriers also correlate with a number of complex socio-economic factors, including income, education, and race. However, just because a problem is big and difficult, that cannot be a reason not to try to solve it.
Which brings me to where we are today.
Today in Atlanta, Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal and I kicked off the 2014-15 back to school season. We announced that in less than three years, Comcast has connected more than 350,000 families, or more than 1.4 million low-income Americans, to the power of the Internet in their homes. 1.4 million is more than the population of San Diego or San Antonio, almost the size of Philadelphia, and more than the population of 11 states, including Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana and Hawaii.
We also made two major announcements. Comcast will include up to six months of complimentary service for any new family that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4th and September 20th, 2014 will receive up to six months of Internet service. We’re doing this because there is no more important back to school supply than Internet service at home. In today’s classrooms, as well as in the workforce, students need to be digitally ready.
In addition, we announced an amnesty program for low-income families who could qualify for the Internet Essentials program, but have a past due balance with Comcast. If customers have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old, then as long as they meet all the other eligibility criteria, they can apply to the program and we will provide amnesty for that back due bill for the purpose of connecting to Internet Essentials. If customers’ outstanding bills are less than a year old, however, then we would like them to settle that debt with us before they can be eligible to apply for the program. We are willing to work with families whose debt is reasonable enough that that they could pay us back in installments.
Since Internet Essentials launched in 2011, we have made a great deal of progress. We have:
Invested more than $200 million in cash and in-kind support to help close the digital divide, reaching more than 1.75 million people through the program’s non-profit digital literacy partners.
Sold nearly 30,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.
Distributed nearly 37 million Internet Essentials brochures at no cost.
Broadcast nearly 4 million public service announcements, valued at more than $51 million.
Welcomed nearly 2.2 million visitors to the Internet Essentials websites in English and Spanish and the Online Learning Center.
Fielded more than 2.3 million phone calls to our Internet Essentials call center.
Offered Internet Essentials to more than 30,000 schools and 4,000 school districts, in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Partnered with thousands of community-based organizations, government agencies, and federal, state and local elected officials to spread the word.
Dedicated $1 million in grants to create Internet Essentials Learning Zones, where networks of non-profit partners are working together to enhance public Internet access and increase family-focused digital literacy training in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fresno, Miami, and Seattle, among others.
In the last three years, we also learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in terms of introducing a program of this kind. Last year, we hired Dr. John B. Horrigan, head of research for the F.C.C.’s National Broadband Plan and a former research director with Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, to write the playbook for success for anyone, any company or non-profit, to use if they wanted to create and implement a program like Internet Essentials.
In addition, we have conducted our own consumer research, and we have learned a lot about what customers think about having Internet Essentials.
98% said they would recommend the program to friends and families.
97% said they use the service so their kids can do homework.
90% said they were satisfied with the program.
82% said they use the service every day or almost every day.
We have lots to look forward to later this fall as we roll out our multi-year campaign to support Khan Academy and help elevate their mission to bring a free, world class education to anyone, anywhere. For Comcast, Khan Academy is an example of the ultimate value proposition for why a parent with school-aged children should sign up for Internet Essentials. Khan Academy offers a personalized online learning experience to students, in subjects from basic math to physics, biology, economics, art history, computer science, health and medicine and more. To date, Khan Academy has provided 400 million lessons, and learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems. Comcast has committed to airing an unprecedented number of PSAs and providing significant digital promotion, in both English and Spanish, about Khan Academy and its educational benefits.
There is more work to be done to bridge the digital divide in America, but we are proud of what we have accomplished so far. Our commitment to making an even bigger impact remains unwavering. With the merger with Time Warner Cable, we see a tremendous opportunity to bring the benefits of Internet Essentials to millions of additional families in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City and Charlotte. After the transaction closes, Internet Essentials will be available in 16 of our nation’s 20 largest cities.
If you’d like to get more involved and become a partner, then please sign up at www.internetessentials.com/partner and help us spread the word.
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This communication does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or a solicitation of any vote or approval. In connection with the proposed transaction between Comcast Corporation ("Comcast") and Charter Communications, Inc. ("Charter"), Charter will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") a registration statement on Form S-4 that will include a proxy statement of Charter that also constitutes a prospectus of Charter, and a definitive proxy statement/prospectus will be mailed to shareholders of Charter. INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS OF COMCAST AND CHARTER ARE URGED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT/PROSPECTUS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS THAT WILL BE FILED WITH THE SEC CAREFULLY AND IN THEIR ENTIRETY BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION. Investors and security holders will be able to obtain free copies of the registration statement and the proxy statement/prospectus (when available) and other documents filed with the SEC by Comcast or Charter through the website maintained by the SEC at http://www.sec.gov. Copies of the documents filed with the SEC by Comcast are available free of charge on Comcast’s website at http://cmcsa.com or by contacting Comcast’s Investor Relations Department at 866-281-2100. Copies of the documents filed with the SEC by Charter will be available free of charge on Charter’s website at charter.com, in the "Investor and News Center" near the bottom of the page, or by contacting Charter’s Investor Relations Department at 203-905-7955.
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