In honor of Veteran’s Day, Comcast hosted a special event in Portland, Oregon to broaden awareness of its Internet Essentials program. The program, which provides internet service to low-income households for just $10 per month, now reaches over six million people in the United States.
The Internet Essentials program started in 2011 with the goal of connecting children living in low-income households. Since then, it has expanded to several new groups including seniors with disabilities and, now, U.S. veterans.
David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of the Comcast Corporation, told Digital Trends that veterans are particularly vulnerable to losing internet access. “They’ve been in the service. They’ve been away for a couple of years. They come back, and many of them don’t have homes. Homelessness in the veteran popular is disproportionate to that population. They may be coming to a strange community, they may not have a job, so they don’t have income.”
And once access to the internet is lost, it can be difficult to regain. Both mobile data and overland internet connections are difficult for low-income populations to afford, yet access to the internet provides access to many opportunities such as finding a job and housing.
“70 percent of homework assignments require the internet to complete them,” Cohen explained. “80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only give you the opportunity to apply for a job online.” That puts serious hurdles in front of anyone who lacks internet access. They simply can’t find the opportunities they’re looking for.
Access to the internet is only part of the equation, however. Comcast’s Internet Essentials program also works with numerous non-profit partners to connect people with programs that can help them learn crucial skills or purchase an affordable computer. Even people who don’t use Internet Essentials can search for free classes on the program’s website.
Yet that, too, is part of the paradox that makes reconnecting people to the internet difficult. People lacking access of course can’t visit Comcast’s website to find classes. Cohen said the company tackles that problem by working with local non-profits to raise awareness. “That is the secret sauce if the entire Internet Essentials program,” Cohen explained. “You don’t do this by just issuing a press release. We’ve created a web of non-profit and governmental partners who can help us inform whatever the targeted population is.” Two such partners, which work with Comcast on a national scale, are the Psych Armor Institute for veterans and The Salvation Army.
Over a million veterans are now eligible for Internet Essentials, and Cohen says Comcast is doing all it can to make sure word of the program reaches them. “So far, we’ve made a difference for six million low income Americans who’ve signed up for this program,” Cohen said. “There are a lot more. But we’ve made a difference for those six million Americans. And we’ll make a difference for those low-income veterans.”
Go to Comcast’s Internet Essentials website to check your eligibility and sign up.