Charter Spectrum succeeded in bringing on 60,000 new internet subscribers through the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB — the FCC’s stimulus program for connectivity during the COVID-19 crisis), likely due to its heavy direct marketing efforts featuring “free internet.”
Most internet providers participating in the EBB program featured the available $50 discount as a secondary message in their marketing. Charter, however, sent high volumes of mail and email focused entirely on “free internet” available via the EBB. In fact, Charter sent more EBB mail promotions than any other internet provider. EBB promotions made up approximately 2% of Charter’s mail volume in May and in June.
A Look at the Campaigns
Charter’s highest volume EBB mailers notified recipients, on the envelope and inside, that they were pre-qualified for free high-speed internet service.
The letter-and-envelope mailers explained that the recipient qualified for free internet on a temporary basis from Spectrum through the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Program. Fifty-seven percent of EBB mailers reached households making under $25,000 or with a household size and income that would likely be eligible based on EBB guidelines.
Other mailers included messages about free internet as a secondary focus, either at the bottom of the letter or via an insert.
Mailing inserts, like the one below, featured a simple three-step process to get free internet through the EBB.
Other internet service providers mentioned the available $50 EBB discount in their internet marketing: they did not position the EBB as a way to get internet free, nor did they lead with the message, as Charter did.
Sparklight, for example, used mail inserts to promote the $50 discount.
Optimum noted the discount on the backside of an oversized postcard.
Direct Mail Proves More Effective than Email
Charter also sent an estimated 1.2 million emails from May through July that featured messaging about qualifying for free internet. Read rates were well below Charter’s average read rate of 23%, perhaps because these emails were not sent to those with an existing relationship with Charter.*
Charter used moderately different subject lines with the same email body.
Email Example No. 1
Subject Line: You may qualify for free Internet service
Read Rate: 9%
Email Example No. 2
Subject Line: Don’t Miss Out: You may qualify for free Internet service
Read Rate: 5%
From May through July 2021, Charter sent an estimated 630,000 emails responding to consumers who applied for free internet via the EBB. The email informed applicants that the company was verifying whether their application meets the federal eligibility requirements.
These emails indicate that a high number of consumers applied for the program, although Charter ultimately only brought on 60,000 of them under the program. Overall, the emails had an average read rate of 57%.
*Charter’s average email read rate from 05/01/21 – 07/31/21] as of 08/02/21