It really is a noble gesture. Like many other large companies out there, Comcast has jumped on the bandwagon to offer free services to those affected by the novel coronavirus. In this instance, it’s giving free access to Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots to everyone, including non-subscribers, for 60 days.
Gaining access to this particular service is relatively easy, as you can select the “xfinitywifi” network name on the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser.
While the good intention is no doubt apparent, some are struggling to get enough speed just to do basic tasks like sending emails and reading the news of the day. Perhaps too many people are using the hotspots at the same time and straining the network, but for those who are really trying to take advantage of this service to complete simple, important tasks and are not able to, you have to feel for them.
According to Comcast, the standard speed for an Xfinity hotspot is 25 Mbps. But even before this current health pandemic, customers were enduring speeds in the single digits. Running any quasi-resource-intensive program or app would be nearly impossible at these laughable speeds. Some have even suggested that Comcast is withholding extra bandwidth for unknown reasons.
The Federal Communications Commission recommends internet speeds of 12 to 25 Mbps for families with multiple internet users or for frequent online streaming. If that is the case, this so-called free internet just isn’t cutting it.
Comcast, though, should be recognized for its other offerings during this health crisis. The company is providing unlimited data to its customers for no extra charge and is not disconnecting internet service or charging late fees to individuals who say they can't pay their bills. Flexible payment options will be available.
Moreover, Internet Essentials, normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month, will be free to new customers for 60 days. The speed of this program’s internet service has been increased to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
All of these steps that Comcast is taking is pretty honorable. But the company should do a better job in taking care of those who don’t have the financial means to pay for internet service due to the coronavirus. That doesn’t necessarily mean just giving them scraps from the head table. At least make it more worthwhile to utilize these free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV.