Comcast Today: Why Aren’t More Philly Families Signing Up for Cheap Internet?

Plus: Does Comcast have competition for Time Warner?

Today’s top news and commentary about Comcast:

• Throughout the country, nearly 12 percent of the families estimated to be eligible for Comcast’s discount program, known as Internet Essentials, have enrolled. In Philadelphia, that figure is 9 percent, with roughly 9,000 of the approximately 98,000 eligible households participating. Some residents and tech experts, though, say Comcast makes it too difficult for poor people to subscribe. Emaleigh Doley, a block captain in the city’s Germantown section, says many of her neighbors need a low-priced broadband service such as Internet Essentials. But there are “barriers of entry,” she says.  For instance, she points out, current Comcast customers aren’t eligible for Internet Essentials. A low-income family has to cancel service for 90 days to get the reduced rate. Critics say there are other barriers: You can’t get Internet Essentials if you have an overdue bill with Comcast. You can’t fully complete an application for the program over the phone. And you must have a school-aged child to be eligible. (NewsWorks)

• Charter has not withdrawn the full slate of directors that it nominated to Time Warner Cable’s board just one day before Comcast swooped in. Putting forward 13 directors to replace Time Warner Cable’s existing board was Charter’s boldest move to date, and paved the way for a nasty proxy fight. But with Time Warner Cable shareholders appearing supportive of the Comcast offer, there is little chance that they will vote out the directors who approved that deal. So why hasn’t Charter withdrawn its slate? Charter says it is simply keeping its options open. After all, Time Warner Cable still hasn’t announced a date for its annual meeting, Charter notes, and the Comcast deal has yet to be approved by shareholders or regulators. (New York Times)

• “Comcast’s going to have 19 of the top 25 MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas) in the country where there’s one broadband provider or a limited number,” said Dave Schaeffer, CEO of broadband provider Cogent Communications, among Comcast competitors opposed to the deal. He’s less convinced that the merging cable companies will receive antitrust clearances. Schaeffer believes opposition is mounting against a Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal and has a better than 50% chance of being quashed, but if it should receive antitrust approval, he listed possible remedies that might satisfy competitors and regulators. One is additional language to broaden penalties if Comcast should violate consent decrees, said Schaeffer.  Comcast has already broken “the spirit” of the NBC Universal consent decree, the open Internet/net neutrality order in which the Philadelphia-based cable company agreed not to manipulate network traffic to its own advantage, in other words, to treat all network traffic alike, Schaeffer said. “Comcast doesn’t manipulate traffic in the network but before it gets to the network by refusing to increase connectivity to all major global Internet backbone providers.” Regulators have considered Comcast to be in compliance with the NBC Universal consent decree and open Internet order since the order’s inception three years ago, noted Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokesperson for Comcast.(Forbes)