(—After complaints about a program that offers cheap Internet service to poor people, Comcast today announced it will provide “up to six months” of free Internet to new subscribers and an “amnesty” program for families with unpaid bills.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials, mandated by the federal government when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, gives $10-per-month Internet service to low-income households with schoolchildren. Critics have argued that the program is too hard to sign up for, that eligibility criteria should be less strict, and that further requirements should be implemented if Comcast is allowed to buy Time Warner Cable.

The amnesty program will make it possible for some families with unpaid bills to get the cheap service. Internet Essentials rejects applicants who have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment. Comcast isn’t entirely getting rid of that policy, but the company said that “customers who have an outstanding bill that is more than one year old” are now eligible for the program.


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