Back and Forth with Comcast and Small Progress to Date

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues Labor Organizing
Mayor Hays of North Little Rock

New Orleans   Our coalition has now sent a letter to the FCC asking for hearings and meetings in Houston and Philadelphia to try to focus Comcast on actually delivering on the requirements that it provide low cost Internet access to lower income families in its service areas. Comcast’s strategy is clear.  They don’t want to do real outreach to the poor, they just want to do it with politicians where the props come easy and the donations slide smoothly into their pockets, producing lots of proclamations and damned little Internet.

My favorite response which is so typical of their strategy came from a letter to the Arkansas Times, a weekly paper based in Little Rock which had been following the efforts spearheaded by Local 100 United Labor Unions and Arkansas Community Organizations in that city.  They obviously wheedle the Mayor of North Little Rock Patrick H. Hays into writing a letter to the paper offering them ridiculously effusive praise.  Unfortunately the math in the letter about how good a job Comcast is doing is typical Comcast “pat my own back” overkill.  As Hays drools his praise he comments that “40,000 nationwide have taken advantage” of the program (unaudited figures from Comcast, and highly suspect) and further he understands “that Comcast looks forward to multiplying those numbers 10,000 fold, and I eagerly anticipate many of those additions being from Central Arkansas.”

I have no doubt that Mayor Hays is hard at it in North Little Rock and doing one heckuva job, but next time he decides to shill for Comcast he ought to check their math before putting it on his letterhead.  40,000 times 10000 equal 400,000,000 people!!!  Mayor, we don’t have that many people living in the USA yet.   We have perhaps 313,000,000 and change according to the world population clock maintained by the U.S. Census.  And, perhaps Comcast misled Mayor Hays, but they really don’t provide all of the Internet in the USA, though I’m sure they would like to do so!  Sure hope some of those are in fact in Central Arkansas, since we sure can’t find many getting Internet Essentials yet.

Our coalition sent out an op-ed in response to the huge profits being recorded by Comcast.  They can do so much better.  Perhaps not as good as Mayor Hays believes, but maybe as good as we and the FCC require!

Comcast Internet Essentials Program Must Be Successful

Recently the New York Times reported on Comcast’s rising profits while families like mine are still waiting for Comcast to fill their promise of closing the digital divide through the Internet Essentials Program. In September of 2011, Comcast rolled out a national program to sign up families with children eligible for the free lunch program with $9.95 Internet, a computer and training. A few weeks ago they released their first public statement that reported that in Philadelphia only 463 or .3% of eligible families have enrolled in this program in their own hometown. In Houston they have enrolled 2000 out of 400,000 eligible families or .05% of eligible families.

It was reported last week that Comcast’s net income soared 45% to $1.3 billion because of the addition of NBC Universal, the same merger that requires Comcast to substantially increase broadband adoption in low income homes throughout Comcast’s service area. Today the Internet is an essential part of daily life, especially for my children. In January I attempted to apply for the Internet Essentials program but never received the application. This program is not working and Comcast is clearly not substantially increasing enrollment.

In Houston and Little Rock Local 100 United Unions represents Head Start workers and I work there and am eligible even under Comcast’s restrictive guidelines, but I still can’t get access to the program and get nothing but contradictory information.

Comcast must take their commitment to the FCC and to families on the other side of the digital divide seriously and take the large profits they are reporting and invest them in the successful implementation of the Internet Essentials program so it works for my family, my community and my city.