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Comcast modestly raises slow internet speeds for low-income users because of coronavirus

Comcast modestly raises slow internet speeds for low-income users because of coronavirus


To assist homes during the coronavirus pandemic

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Comcast is increasing the speed of its discounted internet service for low-income households to 25Mbps down, an increase from 15Mbps down. Upload speeds will be increased to 3Mbps from 2Mbps. Comcast is also beginning to offer a 60-day free trial of the service, which costs $9.95 per month.

The updates come in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Comcast says the goal is to ensure customers “will be able to use their Internet service for all their increased needs as a result of this health crisis.”

The speed increases will stay in place

The service, called Internet Essentials, started in 2011 as a requirement of Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal. Comcast continued the service even once the requirement ended three years later, and it’s continued to expand access and increase offered internet speeds, although they've remained fairly slow. Comcast says the service connects “millions” of people.

These latest changes go into effect on Monday. Comcast says the increased speeds will be standard going forward and that all existing customers will be upgraded automatically.

Customers have to apply for approval before they can sign up for Internet Essentials. Comcast says this process can take up to five business days if they receive “auto” approval, and up to 10 business days if not. To be eligible, customers have to qualify for public programs like the National School Lunch Program, Medicaid, or SNAP.

The change comes as many people are being told to stay at home for quarantine purposes or to work from home due to office closures. That makes fast home internet all the more important, and it’s necessary both for work and staying in touch with others amid a pandemic that’s leading to rapid changes, such as school closures, across the world.

AT&T also announced this afternoon that, for its home internet service, it would temporarily suspend data cap overages, according to Motherboard.

Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.