Last year, GW’s three-year contract with the streaming service Philo Edu ended. It was a good opportunity for the University to rid itself of an unnecessary amenity. But instead, GW signed a new contract with Xfinity.
Amenities like gyms and swimming pools are valuable to colleges seeking to attract prospective students who want perks to their college career. But not all amenities are worthwhile. Some, like Louisiana State University’s lazy river, are costly and ineffective in improving a student’s experience. GW’s contract with Xfinity streaming services is both of those things.
Students do not need Xfinity. Their tuition money would be better spent elsewhere, especially considering the poor moral track record of Xfinity’s parent company Comcast. When the University is up for a contract renewal, it should not sign on again.
Xfinity allows students to stream hundreds of channels on their devices. The services provided by Xfinity are valued at $80 a month – the “preferred package” at $60 with two premium channels at $10 each. That means students may pay as much as about $720 per academic year for the service and $2,880 over four years. GW may receive a discount for the service, but it is still an unnecessary expense.
Students do not need their housing dollars spent on Xfinity when money could go toward cheaper streaming services or school supplies. The cost of four years of Xfinity for one student could be used to purchase several decades of streaming services like 55 years of Disney Plus, 44 years of Hulu and 46 years of Netflix, or about two months of rent in a one-bedroom apartment in the District. At least one of those things must be worth more to most students than Xfinity.
The University should at least tell students how much we are spending on Xfinity and whether we receive a discount. Without that information, we need to default to what we know – that a monthly subscription costs $80. If that is true, it is far too expensive for any college student to involuntarily pay $80 per month on a TV streaming service.
The money could be used in a 100 better ways for most students. For a different example, about 40 percent of students face food insecurity on campus. If food insecurity exists because students need more money, then a few hundred extra dollars can go a long way to alleviate the issue.
Some students likely want Xfinity, especially considering they may need to pay more to purchase the service on their own. But that is not fair to the students who would prefer that rather than their housing dollars go elsewhere or to those who already use other services like ESPN, Hulu and Netflix. I have not used Xfinity for a significant amount of time – neither has my roommate or the majority of people who live on my floor. Students who are paying for their own schooling or who simply do not use the service should not have to pay as much as $2,880 over four years for something they neither want or need.
This cost of Xfinity is one reason for the University to not renew its Xfinity contract. But there is one more reason that carries just as much weight – Xfinity is part of Comcast, which has a notoriously bad reputation for its customer service. Comcast allegedly billed customers whose houses had been destroyed or damaged by hurricanes, and then told them to file it with their insurance providers. Comcast also has a sketchy record when it comes to user privacy, and regularly engages in anti-competitive practices. Xfinity is just a way to disguise who your money is actually going to.
On top of that, Comcast continues to score low in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, receiving a 62 – an 11-year low – in 2018. To provide some comparison, the IRS ranks higher on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index with a score of 76.
A university that prides itself on political activism and awareness should let its students spend money on the amenities they actually want. Xfinity’s poor track record and high costs are reason enough for the University to not renew its contract.
Sam Swinson, a freshman majoring in political science, is an opinions writer.