Comcast's Now unit preps connectivity services in time for ACP sunset

US cableco Comcast is adding a range of fixed and mobile packages to its prepaid Now brand, in hopes of attracting consumers affected by the impending closure of the Affordable Connectivity Programme (ACP).

Nick Wood

April 18, 2024

3 Min Read

Now has been up and running in the US since last May as a streaming TV and Wi-Fi hotspot service. Soon it will also include Now Internet, a prepaid fixed broadband service. Prices will start at a reasonable $30 per month for 100 Mbps, rising to $45 for 200 Mbps. Both tariffs come with uncapped data and an Xfinity gateway.

Comcast is also adding the Now brand to its MVNO service, hosted on Verizon's network. For $25 per line, Now Mobile customers will be able to get unlimited 5G data, minutes and texts. Users can also seamlessly roam onto any one of Comcast's 23 million Xfinity wifi hotspots.

Comcast is currently trialling these new services in Hartford to New Haven in Connecticut, as well as Houston and Miami. Now is expected to roll out to all Comcast service areas in the coming weeks.

"With Now, we've developed a new product construct from the ground up to be simple and easy for anybody who wants Internet, mobile or TV on their own terms without sacrificing quality," said Dave Watson, CEO of connectivity and platforms at Comcast. "It rounds out our product offering to provide something for every consumer segment of the market and plays to our strengths in superior network capabilities, Wi-Fi and streaming."

Comcast makes no secret about which particular consumer segment Now has in its sights.

"The federal government recently announced that April is the last full month of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) if it does not receive additional funding. Now Internet and Mobile will provide customers enrolled in ACP with another option for affordable, reliable connectivity – supplementing Comcast's longstanding low-income broadband adoption options Internet Essentials and Internet Essentials Plus, and Xfinity's current suite of offerings," Comcast said.

The ACP was launched in late 2021, replacing the Emergency Broadband Benefit programme. It gave qualifying households a discount of up to $30 per month off their Internet service, and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households could also get up to $100 off a new laptop, desktop PC, or tablet, provided they contributed more than $10 – but less than $50 – towards the purchase price.

The ACP was funded by Congress to the tune of $14.2 billion, but now it has run out of money and there is no more funding available. As a result, the ACP stopped accepting new applications in February, and will stop subsidising members at the end of this month.

Comcast has already made several commitments to customers affected by the ACP closure, including credits on bills for the month of May.

The end of the ACP will also leave a potentially-lucrative void for the private sector to fill, and Comcast thinks it can do so by leveraging Now.

The brand traces its origins to the UK. It was introduced by Sky in 2012 – before its takeover by Comcast – as a cheaper, prepaid alternative to Sky's satellite TV service, delivered via broadband. In the years since, it has been steadily extended in one guise or another to other markets in Sky's European footprint before entering the US in 2023.

As is typical with most low-cost sub-brands, Now doesn't tend to hog the limelight – its owners being wary of cannibalising customers of the premium, parent brand.

In the US, Comcast has been happy to offer Now streaming services as a stablemate of its Xfinity Stream service to help its prospects in the fiercely-competitive content market. However, it has until now refrained from pushing Now into the connectivity sector, where competition is not quite as intense.

Timing the launch of Now Internet and Mobile to coincide with the prospect of attracting the deluge of new customers on the hunt for low-cost connectivity could prove a shrewd move for Comcast.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the newsletter here.

You May Also Like