By technology editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Comcast Corporation says more than 300,000 low-income families across the country have signed up for its reduced-cost Internet service — but notes that many more are eligible.

So, the cable giant is extending the program indefinitely.

The move comes at a critical time for Comcast.  Only about a one-tenth of the households that could qualify for the $9.95/month “Internet Essentials” service have signed up so far.

“In two and a half years, to be able to get to this percentage of the eligible population, we think is an enormous and extraordinary accomplishment,” says Comcast executive vice president David Cohen.  But, he adds, they can do better.

So, to reignite interest in Philadelphia and nineteen other communities where it is offered, the company is making an offer to new customers who get on board by March 18th:  “We’ll give them six months of Internet Essentials service for free,” according to Cohen.

Families who have a child in the National School Lunch Program can sign up at 855-846-8376 or at

As part of Internet Essentials, Comcast also offers free digital literacy training and $150 computers.

Comcast started the program when it bought NBC Universal; this indefinite extension could be seen as a sealing point for federal regulators as Comcast looks to scoop up the industry’s number two cable company.

“We look forward to expanding the benefits of closing the digital divide upon closing of the Time-Warner transaction,” Cohen says.

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