Comcast Pledges Low-Cost Web as It Meets on Time Warner

Comcast Corp. vowed to help more low-income families connect to the Internet as a top executive began meeting today with U.S. regulators who will review the company’s $45.2 billion bid for competitor Time Warner Cable Inc.

A program that offers eligible families Internet service for $9.95 monthly will be extended indefinitely, David L. Cohen, an executive vice president for Philadelphia-based Comcast, said on a conference call with reporters. The program, Internet Essentials, has enrolled 1.2 million people, Cohen said.

Cohen is to hold meetings at the Federal Communications Commission today and possibly tomorrow, said two agency officials knowledgeable about the plans who asked not to be identified because the talks aren’t public. Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, needs approval from the FCC and antitrust officials at the Justice Department for its proposed purchase of New York-based Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 carrier.

Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman, confirmed meetings at the agency this week and said they would be Cohen’s first at the FCC to discuss the acquisition, which was announced Feb. 13.

Cohen said on the conference call that his “major job in Washington today is to talk about Internet Essentials.”

“But when I talk to folks in Washington about the Time Warner Cable transaction I will be emphasizing, really, multiple different pieces,” he said.

Low-Cost Internet

Comcast in 2010 offered to create and sustain a program of inexpensive Internet connections for the low-income for three years. The offer came as it sought permission to buy NBC Universal, which it won in early 2011, adding to its stable a television network, movie studio and cable channels such as CNBC, MSNBC and USA Network.

The Time Warner deal would create “appropriate scale” that enables Comcast to invest in new services, and would create a new national advertiser to increase competition in that market, Cohen said.

The deal would allow the expansion of Internet Essentials to “millions of additional families” in markets served by Time Warner Cable in such cities as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, Cohen said.

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