Union Protest at Comcast Friday Over Low-Income Kids Internet Program

Categories: Education

Comcast says: Yes, we do care!
Back in September, Comcast made a deal with the Federal Communications Commission as part of its takeover of NBC and Universal Studios that it would provide low-cost Internet services and a cheaply priced computer to low-income families -- but that hasn't happened in the Houston area, according to union leader Orell Fitzsimmons.

Feeling that Comcast was trying to slip one by the FCC, Fitzsimmons and members of United Labor Unions Local 100 announced today that they will be out at Comcast's facility at 8590 West Tidwell around 4:30 p.m. Friday protesting. They say that it's not enough that Comcast has posted a notice of the program on its Web site -- it needs to do outreach in the schools and actually help some of what it says are 385,000 free lunch children's families that would qualify.

Ray Purser, vice president of government and public relations for Comcast-Houston, said he truly doesn't understand why Fitzsimmons is saying that the cable company hasn't done outreach promoting Internet Essentials, which is designed to provide low-cost access ($9.95 a month and a computer for $150) to low-income kids.

"In June we met with all of the major school districts throughout the entire region to explain the program and to let them know their students would qualify for this if they participated in the school free lunch program," Purser said, adding that most of the districts agreed to order brochures that went home with kids in their school packets. "HISD ordered over 100,000 brochures. Aldine did the same thing."

In addition, Purser said, Comcast purchased ad time on local radio stations, including ones that have a large number of minority listeners. It attended school fairs and passed out material. And there was a launch event with Mayor Annise Parker.

"I'm happy to meet with Local 100 to hear how they think we might improve the program," Purser said.

But in surveying Harris County and the Houston area, Fitzsimmons said: "We still haven't found anyone that's had the program." He's contacted Comcast and says he was told he'll get a written reply in a week. He also filed a request with the FCC asking them to intervene and said its representatives were interested in what he had to say.

Asked how many kids and their families had actually been enrolled in the program, Purser said Comcast wasn't keeping numbers on that.

In response to Hair Balls saying: "Huh, why not?" Purser said: "It's just not a number that we've looked at," adding that for competition reasons, his company might never want to release that number.

He called back to say that Comcast is preparing a progress report that should be out in a couple weeks, but again couldn't promise specific numbers would be released. To qualify: The discounted program is available to all families that have at least one child that qualifies for the national free lunch program, isn't a current Comcast customer and can't be a past Comcast customer with a past-due bill.

Part of a national coalition on this issue, Fitzsimmons said his union protested last week at Comcast's Little Rock facility and plans to do the same in another week in Shreveport.

Fitzsimmons said his group wants to know how many people Comcast has signed up for this program and "where's the evidence" it has. Fitzsimmons said he tried to sign up himself for the program just to see how customer-friendly it was and once he'd requested an application on the Internet, it took another 15 days to get it in his hands. Then he was told he'd need to undergo a credit check. "We don't think it's a good-faith effort on Comcast's part."

But Purser responds that FCC/NBC/Universal deal or no, Comcast has always made an effort to extend Internet access and certainly realizes that the biggest barrier -- at least in Texas -- isn't the technology available but the cost. He said his company has a history of offering free computer classes in the schools.

Fitzsimmons notes that there's a time limit on the Comcast offer, which is "only good for three years." He's afraid too few people will take advantage of it before it is over. Even with that, he said, not everyone can handle even the discounted cost of the computer. "We're trying to get the company to let them pay on their monthly bill like $5 or $10 a month for the computer because a lot of them on minimum wage have a hard time getting $150 together."

"We're going to go out there with some Head Start workers who work with these little kids who need the computers and some HISD employees who work in the kitchen which is the low-paid people, and most of the people have kids in school on the free lunch program and they're going to want to get the Internet for their kids," Fitzsimmons said.

By the way, if you know of anyone who might qualify for the program, but who doesn't have access to the Internet right now, give them this number: 1-855-846-8376. Purser promises Comcast will take care of any questions you have.

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I agree Union people who get paid high dollars for a half ass job they do! How about you donate half of what you make since your so concerned people get computers in payments. Also put your money with where your over paid mouth is. Don't protest cause a company is giving away 9.95 internet and that's a giveaway since cell phone internet is 30.00 bucks and its not unlimted. Protest because big company's let go of people to outsource jobs and protest cause people who need health care can't get it cause they have jobs that barely put food on the table. Unions what a joke you do what for people again take money from their checks for years and when you need them they crumble and the company does what it wants and guess what people are out of jobs. So how about protest about the jobs you don't save and the people who you have had in your union on the unemployment line now. So the next time you wanna protest on company that actually employes People here in the usa and locally an actually donates to the communities ask your union when is the last time they brought jobs here and stoped the big giants from outsourcing hummmm. Can we get an answer for that in the next few days????

Deacon Bartash
Deacon Bartash

Seriously? These are the protests people waste their time with? So let me get this straight...A company (that their service is considered a luxury rather than necessity) offers a program at roughly 1/5 the cost it charges to normal customers; puts the info out there through various mediums and offers the service at a phone call away is being scrutinized for not doing their part? 

First people find out all kinds of government programs when they actually want them. I am completely sympathetic to actual families in need as i grew up poor and worked my behind off to get out of that situation. But how much needs to be spoonfed to people before we force people to take some initiative to do some research? The program is there, it's tangible, all that needs to happen is for someone to take time out of their life to actually apply for it. We apply for food stamps, welfare, unemployment etc. how is this any different? 

Someone wasnt informed through their kids school? Call the school and find out why not! The school says your kid got a flyer but you never received it? Talk to your kid put the blame where it belongs in the individuals hands not the company offering the service that's asinine. 

This group seems to have a weak leader who needs to get his ducks in a row before just jumping out in public with a half cocked "cause" and making himself to look a fool. Now he might have had some validity had he called Comcast and they told him "This program doesnt exist" or  never got a reply back at all but he said himself he called and got the application in 15 days. Doesnt seem like anything shady happened seems more people need to call and get that application and take some personal responsibility and initiative.

Secondly why would a company who is offering you a computer for 150 dollars, (well below retail price) let you make payments on it? That's just screaming for people who admittedly are low income to default and use the pc to pay other bills if the need arises. That's just a bad financial move on any person or companies part. You have a hard time scraping together 150 dollars? Understandable, there are other government programs you can apply for. Tax time comes use the money to get a pc for the family instead of a ps3 or other handheld eletronic device. Prioritize what's needed more than wanted it can be done. Pawn shops, layaway, conns, rent a center etc all other venues you can take to make payments there is no excuse. 

Kids need internet at home is an argument i've heard alot. Ok so when they cant have it at home is the library, school, a friends house or any other avenue not available to them? 

Bottom line this is a sad attempt to pass the buck. This protest should have been used to spread the same awareness that they are complaining about by setting up at a booth in front of walmart or something ot that nature. We need to start taking responsibility as a society and realize the difference between a hand out and a hand up. What are we teaching our kids if we show them it's alright to complain about being broke and hungry but it's not your fault, and others who work hard and try harder to improve themselves, it's their responsibility to take care of you. I believe that message is to often the backbone of our community and the line needs to be drawn that although some of us arent the most fortunate of people we can always do better, this isnt all there is to offer in life, and if you want something you have to go for it not wait for it to be put in your lap because the world owes us nothing and we need to step up and teach our kids to shirk off this sense of self entitlement we have instilled in them. 

big red
big red

"We're trying to get the company to let them pay on their monthly bill like $5 or $10 a month for the computer because a lot of them on minimum wage have a hard time getting $150 together."

Funny that they seem to have no problem getting $150 together to buy Michael Jordan shoes, or cell phones, or booze.

Priorities certainly show how important these things really are to many (not all) people. And for cryin' out loud, a large number will not even get their kids free shots for school. Providers have to literally go out and beg them to get their kids the shots.


To the unions. What do you want next a 20.00 raise per hour. Who do you thinks pays for all this free or discounted servuce? It surley is not you Mind your own  and leave the compaines alone or who know you may be out of wore\k like the rest of us.It is not hard to break a uniln in these bad times trust me I have been through it


Citation? Or should we just trust you on that, Mr. Red? I'm sure those things happen quite a bit, but you know, facts are nicer than anecdotes.


 Maybe you should drink less and you wont have to worry about your job?


That was coherent...

big red
big red

you must have missed the very long lines outside so many shoe stores over the Christmas holidays. It was on the local news. Try watching tv news instead of MTV

Jim C
Jim C

Is that a special kind of book? No, it's regular.


That MTV thing is one of the lamest insults I've ever read.

And you do know what anecdotal means, right? A local TV news piece proves nothing except that some people have misplaced priorities. It could easily be the case that the vast majority of low-income people do not engage in that sort of behavior. Or it might be the case that they do. Or it might be divided by ethnic or geographical lines. Again, that spot proves absolutely nothing.

You should watch less TV news, and read a fucking book.

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