Pushing ahead on a pledge tied to its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, Charter Communications has launched a standalone, low-cost broadband service for qualified seniors and families that costs $14.99 per month.
The uncapped, contract-free offering, called Spectrum Internet Assist, delivers 30 Mbps downstream by 4 Mbps upstream, speeds that exceed the FCC’s current definition of wireline “broadband” -- 25 Mbps down by 3 Mbps up. Those customers can also add in-home WiFi through Charter for an additional $5 per month.
Qualified customers (families with students that participate in the National School Lunch Program and seniors 65 and older who receive Supplemental Security Income program benefits) can also bundle other Charter services. A triple-play under the program that includes phone and TV, starts at $74.97.
While prospective customers for the program can’t have had a broadband subscription from the operator within 60 days of signing up, they likewise won’t be denied the offering due to a bad credit score. However, they must clear any outstanding debt incurred within the last year with Charter, Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks in order to be eligible.
Charter is initially offering Spectrum Internet Assist in its legacy service area, and expects to make it available across its remaining footprint by mid-2017.
Charter detailed the plan in December 2015, announcing it would launch a broadband service for low-income customers within six months of its proposed acquisitions of TWC and BHN. Charter closed the deal in May. The FCC included the low-cost broadband provision in the transaction's order.
“Charter is excited to bring a whole new world of digital access and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of low income families and seniors. Spectrum Internet Assist is an important next step in providing true high-speed connections to those who would otherwise continue to face digital inequality in this country,” Tom Rutledge, chairman and CEO of Charter, said in a statement.
The launch also drew praise from The National Urban League, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), NOBEL Women, and The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.
Other MSOs have launched similar high-speed Internet options for low-income families. Those from Cox Communications (Connect2Compete) and Comcast (Internet Essentials) currently offer max downstream speeds of 10 Mbps, but cost less to homes that qualify -- $9.95 per month.