New Orleans Among other things Comcast provides internet service. As we have discussed previously, they promised to provide internet access to lower income families for $9.95 and connect the same families to a computer for $150. Comcast called the program Internet Essentials. They claim to be proud of it.
We don’t know why?
In Houston a delegation of Local 100 United Labor Unions picketed Comcast’s offices demanding the company live up to its promises. Most of these Local 100 members work at Head Start locations and in public schools in Houston. They are in perfect position to know whether or not Comcast made any effort to live up to its promises to at least provide access to families with children in Head Start or who were eligible for free school lunches. In a survey our union conducted of 75 families, we found 1 who knew about the Comcast program and had been able to access it. One as is only one.
Yet, somehow Comcast was surprised that we did not call off the picket line when they agreed to a meeting on Monday afternoon. Why would we? In Little Rock they wanted to meet in two weeks, when they could kinda sorta get around to it. In Shreveport we have not heard a peep. The FCC has asked for our permission to forward our letters to them about the problems with the program to Comcast, but Comcast has not responded anywhere or at anytime except when they have learned that we planned a public protest.
Comcast’s troubles are deep and thus far their response to our pointing out the problem in cities where our coalition is active has been non-existent. They seemed to have wanted a “pass” in the meeting in Philadelphia just for “saying” they would do something, rather than for actually making the program work.
In Houston, as well as other cities, we are also troubled by the fact that if you call the regular Comcast service number and ask for this program, Comcast believes they have “license” to do their damnedest to “up sell” you for a more expensive plan for service. In the meeting in Philadelphia with our partners at Action United they took the preposterous position that all of that was fair game unless the family called specifically about their so-called “Internet Essentials” program. We have now found examples of this with our members everywhere.
There is a name for this kind of sales tactic, and it is not called “lowering the digital divide,” but it is called “bait and switch.”
Add to that the millions of brochures that Comcast has printed for their public relations program about “internet essentials” and their virtually non-existent effort to really deliver the goods, and what do you have? Well, there’s a name for that, too, and it’s called “deceptive advertising.”
Bizarrely, the FCC does not have a complaint form on their website for the inability to get access to internet or cable services, but they do have one for deceptive advertising. Perhaps as the stack of those complaints rises higher and higher, both Comcast and the FCC will finally start taking seriously the need to finally walk the walk and talk the talk and begin to actually do what it takes to get internet to lower income families.