Comcast unveils contract-free internet plans, starting at $30 a month – is there a catch?

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Comcast has rolled out a new internet plan that supposedly won’t lock you into an expensive and confusing contract. Unveiled on Thursday, Comcast NOW is a prepaid option that tempts you with no contracts, no data caps, no hardware fees (a free Wi-Fi 5 modem is included), and no prices that shoot up after the first year.

Comcast NOW is available in two flavors: 100 Mbps for downloads and 11 Mbps for uploads, priced at $30 per month, or 200 Mbps for downloads and 11 Mbps for uploads, priced at $45 a month. As usual, your mileage will vary based on your location, local internet traffic, and other factors.

Also: Comcast Xfinity is still offering surprise free internet speed boost to millions

There’s another benefit with the new plan. Your average internet subscription does not include taxes and other fees, forcing you to pay more per month than the advertised price. Comcast NOW, however, includes local taxes in the price.

The catch? Speeds of 200 Mbps or even 100 Mbps aren’t bad for normal internet browsing, but they may not cut it for activities like video streaming and online gaming. Beefier Xfinity plans from Comcast offer anywhere from 300 Mbps to 1.2 Gbps. Those plans naturally cost more and may saddle you with a contract. For example, my internet plan gives me 300 Mbps downloads, but I pay more than $45 per month.

Also: 4 ways to connect to the internet for less after the Affordable Connectivity Program expires

Once seen as an extravagance, internet access is now considered a necessity. We hop online to buy things, pay bills, manage accounts, find information, and consume entertainment. We use the internet to work and run businesses. Unfortunately, access can be expensive, especially for lower-income households.

To help more people get online, the US government kicked off the Affordable Connectivity Program in January 2022, offering financial credit for internet access. That program is about to wind down, however, meaning that millions of people will need to find alternatives for affordable connectivity. Comcast is touting NOW as an affordable alternative, whether you’re enrolled in ACP or not.

Comcast’s initiative goes beyond internet access. Also on Thursday, the company unveiled NOW Mobile, a prepaid mobile subscription priced at $25 per month per line. This plan offers unlimited talk, text, and data as well as nationwide 5G coverage and access to around 20 million Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots in the US. Each customer can get as many as five lines.

The main barrier here is that you must already be a subscriber of Comcast’s NOW internet or one of its Xfinity broadband plans. If you do qualify, the only other fee you must pay is the one-time $25 setup charge. Otherwise, taxes are included in the stated price, just as with NOW internet.

Also: How good is that smartphone deal really? Use this free spreadsheet to do the math

Comcast has been on a low-cost kick with its new NOW services. Other options available under the NOW umbrella include NOW TV, which includes more than 40 live channels and 24 integrated channels for $20 per month, and NOW Wi-Fi Pass, which gives you access to Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots for 30 days for $20.

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