The NBC/Comcast merger is one of the biggest in recent memory and has been given the thumbs up from the Federal Communications Commission, but as might be expected, it comes with a host of conditions. One of them really sheds light on exactly how much we rely on the internet these days. As a matter of fact, if you don’t have an internet connection you are at a distinct disadvantage whether you’re an adult or a school aged child. Just about all employment applications are now online and it’s almost impossible getting kids to the library to do “traditional” research as budget cuts have limited many libraries operating hours. Living without convenient access to the internet puts people at a distinct disadvantage.
It seems the FCC agrees as on of the biggest conditions of finalizing the merger requires Comcast to provide “approximately” 2.5 million low income households high speed Internet for less than $10 a month. That would be great assuming these low income families had access to computers. Well ,the FCC thought of that too and are also requiring Comcast to provide said households personal computers, netbooks or other equipment at prices below $150. The media conglomerate must also offer a host of “digital literacy educational opportunities” to bring folks up speed in proper Internet usage.
Comcast must also dedicate itself to growing its broadband network to roughly 400,000 new homes get fast Internet service into six additional rural areas and offer free video and ISP services to 600 schools, libraries, and other community institutions, all in low income areas.
While the services will be provided by Comcast the federal government will fund computer literacy classes and tech support for the fore mentioned low income households. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association estimates Comcast’s share of the bill will total roughly $572 million, which, in the big scheme of things, is a drop in the bucket.
There are many other aspects to the merger deal, but I think this one does the most to help everyone obtain equal access to the Internet. Online access has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity in todays digital age.
What are your thoughts on this condition of the merger? Do you think the FCC is overstepping its authority in implementing these conditions? If Comcast take s a loss on the low income connections will they try to make it up on increased costs to the rest of their customers? Let me know in the comments below.