Media Mobilizing Project statement on Comcast Internet Essentials changes

Media Mobilizing Project Statement on Comcast’s Expansion of Internet Essentials

For Immediate Release:  Hannah Sassaman, hannah@mediamobilizing.org

Todd Wolfson, wolfsont@gmail.com

On Monday, August 4th, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen joined the First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Deal, to announce an expansion of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.  The statement below can be attributed to Hannah Sassaman, Policy Director at Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), an organization that has worked to break the digital divide with poor and working communities for almost 10 years.  MMP leads the CAP Comcast campaign, which brings together individuals, organizations, and communities to powerfully inform Philadelphia on what we need from another potential Comcast franchise.

“The reason that Comcast built the Internet Essentials program is well documented.  In 2011, when Comcast announced its intention to merge with NBC Universal, executives dangled Internet Essentials in front of legislators and regulators as a sweetener.  As Comcast prepared its arguments in its case to merge with the second largest telecom provider in the country, Time Warner Cable, they blanketed Washington with ads for Internet Essentials, and promised those same regulators and legislators that they’d extend Internet Essentials indefinitely.

With over a million comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission in support of robust anti-discrimination protections online – net neutrality – and with thousands more pushing the FCC to block Comcast’s proposed merger at the FCC’s recently opened comment docket – it is clear that Comcast is using Internet Essentials only as a way to dress up one more mega-merger.

The failures of Internet Essentials to help the most marginalized communities in America get online are well reported – with only 9% of qualifying Philadelphian families using the program in Comcast’s hometown. When asked why so many poor and working families weren’t using this discount service in the city it calls home, Comcast did something inexcusable – it blamed Philly’s massively defunded public schools for not getting the word out, and blamed poor people themselves for not taking advantage of the service.  Story after story demonstrates how Comcast uses families who need internet for PR purposes, while not doing the hard work necessary to help our communities get online.

The limited “amnesty” that Comcast has added to the Internet Essentials program will help some families holding old Comcast debt to get online.  And the lower rates Comcast is offering for its back to school promotion will help others.  But the digital divide isn’t going to be closed by Comcast charity; by executives trying to dress up a merger that few think will benefit our nation. We will close the digital divide by demanding real change from our telecommunications giants:  by blocking mergers that don’t serve the public interest, by holding these companies accountable and protecting net neutrality, by ensuring that franchise agreements really serve communities, and by allowing cities and towns to create their own high-speed Internet networks to compete.”

CAP Comcast is a new campaign focused on helping Philadelphia communities work with the City of Philadelphia to secure a fair new cable franchise with Comcast. Visit the campaign at http://www.capcomcast.org.

Media Mobilizing Project collaborates with poor and working people to tell the untold stories that help end poverty.  MMP helped lead a process that secured millions in federal stimulus funds for Philadelphia partners aimed at ending the digital divide.  In March 2013, MMP helped bring the public’s attention to the fact that Comcast had spent over $100,000 to block City Council’s bill to expand paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia workers: http://www.mediamobilizing.org/updates/updated-w-video-philadelphians-deliver-over-60000-signatures-urging-council-stand-families. To learn more about Media Mobilizing Project, visit http://www.mediamobilizing.org or email info@mediamobilizing.org.