Comcast’s New Initiatives Strive to Improve Broadband Adoption and Minority Ownership

by Kenneth Mallory on March 10, 2012

Comcast has announced developments concerning two of its initiatives that are aimed to increase broadband adoption and minority ownership.

The company has provided progress updates on its Internet Essentials program and its promise to launch ten independently owned minority networks.   According to David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, these initiatives stem from the conditions Comcast has promised to meet as a result of its merger with NBCUniversal approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

The company recently released its first compliance report, filed with the FCC, which outlines the progress it has made on the terms it must comply with as a result of its merger.

“We’ll be filing these reports for the next six years to show the extensive measures we’ve taken to comply with and in many cases go above and beyond our commitments and the FCC’s conditions in connection with the NBCUniversal transaction,” Cohen said in a statement posted on a company blog.

Internet Essentials: Reaching Thousands of Americans

The Internet Essentials program, which launched several months ago, provides $9.95 broadband Internet service, substantially discounted computers, and Internet training to the nation’s households with children who qualify for free lunches through the National School Lunch Program.  Currently, thousands of Americans are reportedly benefiting from the program, which is set to expand to include children eligible for reduced lunches.

“Internet Essentials grew out of a multi-year internal project that had identified low-income broadband adoption as Comcast’s most important community-investment strategy and priority,” said Cohen in a statement. “The program is not just another Comcast product or service. It represents the largest broadband adoption program anywhere in America, providing low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month; the option to purchase a full-service, Internet ready computer for under $150; and multiple options for digital literacy training in print, online and in person.”

Comcast has released a report detailing the progress made with Internet Essentials. So far, the company has connected over 41,000 households, distributed over 5,500 computers, and provided almost 300 digital literacy trainings.  In addition, the company will double the speed of the broadband Internet it is currently offering.

According to the report, Comcast will also “work with Connect to Compete to try to reduce the hardware costs for Internet Essentials eligible families, and to promote the importance of digital literacy training efforts.”

In Comcast’s statement, Cohen called Internet Essentials the “largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program in the country” and said that participant satisfaction with the program is high.

“We have carefully analyzed our own data and also commissioned third-party survey research in connection with our launch of Internet Essentials — including surveying families who have signed up for the program and families who have not. We are pleased that 86 percent of Internet Essentials customers surveyed are highly satisfied with the product, and 99 percent of these surveyed customers would recommend Internet Essentials to others,” stated Cohen.

At a recent reception to discuss the report’s release, Cohen said Comcast has made a three-year commitment for the program, but it is unclear whether the program will extend beyond that time.

Minority Owners Partner With Comcast

As a part of the merger conditions, Comcast has agreed to launch 10 independent networks by 2019, and Cohen stated that after one year, the company was “half way through its eight year commitment.”

Hip-Hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, television veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz, and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez are the owners of the first four networks launched through the program, which Cohen stated will be “broadly distributed on Comcast Cable systems beginning this April.”

At Comcast’s launch celebration this week, Combs spoke of the lack of minority ownership in media.

“Minority ownership is long overdue, and today is a huge day. Hopefully, the world will follow suit and realize in every industry we’re not represented, and it’s not diverse, that it’s not truly the way the world really is and what your eyes actually see. And you know that’s a problem,” the he said.

Comcast has provided the following information about the networks:

  • Aspire: Launching this summer and led by Magic Johnson, this network will celebrate the successes, achievements and accomplishments of the African American Community with programming including movies, documentaries, short films, music and comedies.
  • REVOLT: Proposed by Sean Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, REVOLT’s programming will be inspired by music and pop culture with social media interaction for music artists and fans. It will launch in 2013.
  • El Rey: Proposed by Robert Rodriguez with John Fogelman and Cristina Patway from FactoryMade Ventures, El Rey will be an action-packed general entertainment network for Latino and general audiences.
  • BabyFirst Americas: Launching this April after being proposed by Constantino Schwarz, this network is designed for infants and young children and their parents with a focus on early development.”

Several other status updates on Comcast’s progress are available here.

  • Kenneth Mallory is an award-winning journalist and attorney who has free-lanced for several publications, in addition to serving as a general assignment reporter for the Washington Afro-American Newspaper. He earned his B.A. magna cum laude from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in addition to his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.

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  • Mildly Disappointed

    I’m generally against media consolidation, but I love the good that has come out of this merger. Just curious, though, are all the minorities they give stations to going to be already wealthy celebrities? Don’t get me wrong, it was probably a great move to drive some publicity around the programs, but shouldn’t we give some new voices a chance?

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