Comcast initiates amnesty, free service for the poor

Comcast might be able to clean its reputation up a bit after its debacle with a painful customer service call that went viral.

The company has offered free services for low-income families. 

Comcast will introduce a program that will help low-income families receive Internet service for free for six months as well as an amnesty program. The program is a new part of its existing Internet Essential offering and it has been initiated in Georgia.

As part of a back-to-school campaign to help low-income families, the Internet Essential program will include up to six months of complimentary service for families in need who have not yet applied to the program, according to a recent report. The announcement was made Aug. 4 by Comcast. 

Families must be approved between Aug. 4 and Sept. 20 to qualify for the free service the Internet service provider is offering. Qualifying families with a past-due balance on their Comcast account will be able to take advantage of a new amnesty program as well. Even customers with an overdue balance of more than a year could be eligible. 

Comcast is trying to connect as many homes and businesses under its service umbrella as it can in a fierce competition with other ISPs like Verizon and AT&T. So far, Comcast has connected 1.4 million Americans, or about 350,000 families, to the Internet. It was recently reported in a Tech Times article that the company has also doubled or significantly increased Internet speeds in various tiers in parts of California, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. The company stated that the Internet is a great tool for school-aged children and their parents to help them succeed. 

"By offering up to six months of complimentary Internet Essentials service, along with an amnesty program, we hope to convince even more families that there is no better school supply than having broadband Internet at home," said David L. Cohen, Comcast executive vice president. "With it, kids can do their homework and parents can be more connected to their children's teachers and schools." 

Although the program will likely give the company a credibility boost, it wasn't all Comcast's doing. Its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable is still pending. And, in fact, when the company acquired NBCUniversal, the government forced it to institute the Internet Essentials program, according to a report.

The company isn't forgiving all debts. Cohen noted in a blog post that famliies with bills less than a year overdue would still  be encouraged to settle the debt before getting into the Internet Essentials program. 

Comcast will run several public service announcements on television to get more people signed up, particularly in lower income areas where 100 percent of the children get free- and reduced-price lunches at school. It will also be offering cheap computers for around $150. 

Comcast is the nation's largest ISP. Its stock has done considerably well, even through critical reports on poor customer satsifaction rankings and the viral phone call. 

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