Next Year, You Can Buy Pay-As-You-Go Cable From Comcast If You Want

Image courtesy of Consumerist

We’re used to there being two kinds of cell phone plans. There’s the post-paid, where you get a bill every month that may go up or down depending on your usage. And there’s the pre-paid, where you pay your $40 and get your flat amount of data and airtime, and use it until it’s used up. But prepaid cable? That’s a new one.

And yet, that’s exactly what Comcast is announcing.

Their option, appropriately called Xfinity Prepaid Services, launches in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan this year and is supposed to be available in all Comcast markets nationwide by the end of 2017. (That said, take Comcast timelines with a grain of salt; their press releases often under-estimate their realities by 6-12 months.)

The pricing is the same for both the prepaid internet and prepaid TV services: each requires the purchase of an $80 starter kit, which includes the first 30 days of service. After that, 7-day refills cost $15, and 30-day refills run $45 — so buying both would run you an average of $90 a month, which is fairly in line with your regular Comcast double-play bill.

The prepaid internet service promises download speeds of “up to” 10 Mbps. The prepaid TV comes in two levels; TV 200 does not include any HD channels, nor sports, nor very many cable networks. TV 450 does include HD programming and sports networks, but costs $120 for the starter kit and $30 / $90 for refills — twice as much. Comcast also offers a Prepaid Latino bundle of Spanish-language networks that can be added to either TV tier without extra charge.

Comcast started a pilot program of the service back in 2013. The initial bundle sold to Philadelphia-area consumers promised slow internet (3 Mbps) and a limited TV package with no HD channels.

Comcast is partnering with Boost Mobile, a Sprint subsidiary and major carrier of prepaid and no-contract cell phone plans, to sell Xfinity Prepaid services in their retail locations.

With this expansion, Comcast is specifically targeting not the young millennial iPad-owning cord-cutter or the suburban homeowner, but underserved populations that don’t usually buy extra monthly services. The company even says outright in its press release that Xfinity Prepaid may be of particular interest to unbanked or underbanked consumers (about 35 million households, total).

Prepaid cards and services are on the rise with millions of consumers. Those customers, unfortunately, routinely end up paying more for goods and services than those who have access to traditional banks and billing cycles — and this may not be much different. Browsing Comcast’s site today shows several TV + Internet packages, including download speeds of 25 – 75 Mbps and up to 140 channels or more, going for $45 – $90 monthly.

In other words, like many prepaid options, this may well reach customers who’ve been locked out until now… but many may still be paying more, to get less.

[via DSL Reports]

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