Thursday, October 2, 2014

GreatLand to FCC: We'll keep Internet Essentials

The infant corporation that hopes to absorb 2.5 million Comcast customers in Detroit, the Twin Cities and other Great Lakes communities now says it will continue Comcast's Internet Essentials program, which provides $10-a-month broadband service to families of schoolchildren who qualify for subsidized school lunches.

And Charter Communications, which proposes to take over Time Warner Cable markets in Ohio, Kentucky, and metropolitan Milwaukee, says it also plans to start offering low-cost service for low-income households.

In joint "reply comments" filed with the FCC on September 24 but not posted publicly until Tuesday, Charter and "Midwest Cable LLC" -- another name for GreatLand Connections, the new "Comcast spinoff" created as part of the pending Comcast-TimeWarner-Charter deal -- say the following:
VI. RESIDENTS IN UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES WILL BENEFIT FROM THE TRANSACTIONS. In light of the synergies and other benefits flowing from the Divestiture Transactions, Charter intends to launch a program following the closing of the Divestiture Transactions that offers low-cost broadband service to low-income families. Charter looks forward to workingwith interested stakeholders as it designs this program. GreatLand will continue to offer Internet Essentials and, over time, may make changes to properly serve this important constituency.
These assurances, which are new, are apparently a response to questions raised by the Coalition for Broadband Equity in comments with the FCC in August. The Coalition -- which includes community groups in Detroit as well as public and nonprofit organizations in several communities slated for "divestiture" to Charter -- asked the FCC to clarify whether the two companies plan to continue Internet Essentials as well as a low-end Internet service tier currently offered by Time Warner, and to require them to do so if necessary as part of any decision approving the overall Comcast-TimeWarner-Charter deal.

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