Cable firms respond to Coalition, promise low-income rates

Greatland Connections, the newly formed 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 greater Cleveland and other 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 Federal Communications Commission on September 24 but not posted publicly until Tuesday, Charter and “Midwest Cable LLC” — another name for GreatLand Connections — 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 completely new, appear to be a response to questions raised by the Coalition for Broadband Equity in comments with the FCC in August. The Coalition 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.