Comcast truck

Comcast mostly uses its Internet Essentials program to butter up antitrust regulators; it created the low-income plan to help complete its NBC takeover, and extended the offering indefinitely to improve its chances of acquiring Time Warner Cable. It's no coincidence, then, that the company has just sweetened Internet Essentials at a time when the TWC merger remains an uncertain prospect. The cable giant is now offering debt amnesty to those who would normally qualify for the $10 monthly plan, but are saddled with outstanding Comcast bills that are over a year old. It's also offering six months of free service for those who sign up by September 20th, in part to guarantee that kids have access to online educational resources when they return to school.

The gesture may well bringing home internet access to more people who otherwise couldn't afford it. However, it's also a direct response to low adoption rates that may thwart Comcast's merger plans. As of May, only 12 percent of eligible families had signed up -- even with a recent increase in users, the numbers won't look good to officials wanting proof that Internet Essentials makes a difference. If the company doesn't offer an olive branch to the less fortunate, its TWC deal may be shot down before it ever gets off the ground.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar]