Comcast expands program providing free internet for low-income Americans
Nate Woods thought he was attending a job fair Thursday during an event hosted by Comcast at the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania headquarters in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
Woods, 52, of Sharpsburg said he nearly fainted when a Comcast official announced that he and 29 other veterans in attendance would get a free laptop computer and free internet access for six months.
“I didn’t expect this at all. It’s like a high school kid’s dream,” said the Air Force veteran.
Comcast, through its national Internet Essentials program, provided the veterans program with a $30,000 grant to fund an in-house and mobile computer laboratory in addition to providing 30 laptops.
The company also awarded grants totaling $25,000 to The Neighborhood Academy, a private, college preparatory school for grades 6-12 in Stanton Heights, and $35,000 to Strong Women, Strong Girls, a Squirrel Hill mentoring program. It provided about 275 laptops to veterans and students in the region.
“Data shows that about a third of low-income veterans do not have internet access at home,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast’s NBCUniversal. “That’s unacceptable. The cruel irony in the digital divide is that the folks who stand to benefit the most from being connected to the internet are the population that is being left behind.”
Comcast announced that it has doubled the number of people eligible for its Internet Essentials program, which helps low-income households connect to the internet. Since 2011, the company has provided connections for more than 8 million Americans, including 120,000 people around Pittsburgh and 680,000 in Pennsylvania.
Households automatically qualify for the Comcast program if they meet requirements for more than a dozen public assistance programs such as Medicaid, food programs like SNAP and WIC, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It essentially includes all low-income Americans, according to Comcast.
Passing out computers were 2018 U.S. Women’s Hockey Olympic gold medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who serve as national spokeswomen for Internet Essentials.
“Information is currency and in a lot of cases education is currency and we’re proud to do what we can as Olympic athletes to lend our voice to create more awareness around the digital divide and we believe that the Internet Essentials program is truly making a difference,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .