Comcast, meanwhile, has just started offering a $10-per-month discount Internet package (as well as discount netbook computers) to many poor Americans). But don't think this is entirely philanthropic. Comcast agreed to the plan as part of its FCC conditions in buying a majority stake in NBC Universal.
The controversial issue, as always, is if the growing power and influence of fewer big TV and media player will end up resulting in higher costs for TV and entertainment. Supply and demand? Big media companies can demand more, because they have more of the supply. That's the problem.
Much of Comcast's new FCC-pushed plan is designed to make sure people continue to have the tools for education. Access to the Internet isn't the end all and be all of education, but it's obviously a growing tool.
Then, of course, there is entertainment. Poor people have mediocre jobs, part-time jobs, or no jobs. They are at home -- watching TV perhaps? Does that help Comcast? Perhaps if they watch an NBC Universal network on their Internet-enabled computers, they'll buy products -- the ones they can afford -- hawked by its TV advertisers.
Some studies have shown that even in tough recessionary times, the last thing that struggling -- but perhaps not technically poverty-marked families -- want to part with is the leisure time news and entertainment in their living room.
A government-sponsored coupon plan to make sure even lower-income families were connected to over-the-air digital TV via converters was a slow but gradual success.
There is no reason why Comcast's effort can't cover the same ground, the same way. Will that get more people off the poverty rolls? Not right away. Might it make them smarter? Hopefully, yes.