Comcast tests low-cost Internet service with community college students in Illinois, Colorado

Comcast is expanding a discounted Internet service that was criticized for its narrow reach and slow speeds to low-income community college students in Illinois and Colorado.

Comcast, one of the country's largest Internet suppliers to homes, created the program, called "Internet Essentials," four years ago as a condition of government approval of its purchase of NBCUniversal.

Consumer advocates had said the $10-a-month program was hard to sign up for, available to too few people and that the program's Internet speed was too slow. Comcast has increased speeds, to 10 megabits per second — fast enough to stream online video — and is broadening how many people can sign up.

The Philadelphia company said Wednesday that community college students in the two states are eligible if they receive Pell grants, government financial aid for low-income people that doesn't have to be repaid. Comcast last month announced that it was trying out Internet Essentials with low-income seniors, starting in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Formerly, it was available only to families of children who qualify for the government's discounted school lunch program.

Philadelphia-based Comcast said Wednesday that about 20 percent of eligible households have signed up.

The average price of home Internet service provided by cable companies has risen about 18 percent over the past decade, to $47.33 a month in 2014, according to research firm IHS.

Internet Essentials costs about a third of Comcast's current promotional price for 25 megabit-per-second service.


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