Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 09-08-2011

Comcast is fulfilling its mandate to provide low-income families with affordable Internet access - one of the conditions of its merger with NBCUniversal.

The cable giant will roll out $10-per-month plans for impoverished families throughout its 39-state footprint, beginning in September. The programme will run for three years.

The move drops the price for Internet to the point where a cable TV subscription may be a viable option for these users. But many more of them may find it to be a great way to access affordable entertainment via the web.

Customers may also be eligible to purchase a netbook with wired and Wi-Fi Internet connectivity for $150. "Every computer shipped includes Windows 7 Starter operating system and Internet browser software," the website says. "Additional productivity software may be included when available."

Comcast basic Internet typically goes for $30 per month. The new Internet Essentials cuts the price by two-thirds, but offers the low-end of the broadband speed scale, equivalent to a typical DSL connection of 1.5 Mbps downstream, and up to 384 kbps upstream. However, there are no activation costs or equipment rental fees, and the rate is protected from any future increases.

In order to qualify, households have to meet an income threshold as well as other criteria, e.g., one child must be enrolled in the National School Lunch Programme. Applicants cannot have had Internet service from Comcast for at least 3 months before joining the programme. Also, having overdue Comcast bills or unreturned equipment will disqualify consumers from the programme.

Families can also sign up to get a voucher to buy a computer for less than $150, reports The Miami Herald. The programme, which is aiming to keep each qualified family enrolled for three years, is slated to begin in September.