Rep. Lamb, County Executive Fitzgerald, Mayor Peduto, and Comcast VP David Cohen thanking veterans at the event.

Managing our lives these days can be pretty difficult without internet access. But for many people, the cost of home internet service is prohibitive.

Internet Essentials, a program launched by Comcast in 2011 and used by more than 8 million people nationwide, offers high-speed internet service at a low cost in order to connect underserved communities to the digital world.

The program has helped 120,000 people in the Pittsburgh region get online affordably in recent years, and today Comcast announced a significant expansion.

“Whether the Internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits, it is absolutely essential to success in our modern, digital age,” said David Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer at Comcast NBCUniversal.

Cohen spoke at the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania this morning about the expansion. He was joined by Mayor Bill Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Representative Conor Lamb.

Under the program’s new guidelines, families and individuals enrolled in various federal assistance programs including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will qualify to enroll in Internet Essentials.

According to the cable giant, the new rules will essentially double the number of low-income households eligible for the program nationwide.

“We realize that as the world changes, we have got to better prepare everyone for the opportunities that will be there,” Mayor Peduto said at this morning’s event.

The press conference was the first of three events Cohen and his team held on Thursday. In addition to announcing new rules for the nationwide program, Comcast also announced a series of grants for Pittsburgh-area nonprofits tackling digital literacy in marginalized populations.

For the Veterans Leadership Program, which hosted the press conference, Comcast donated $30,000. Later in the day, Cohen visited The Neighborhood Academy in Stanton Heights to present $25,000 to support the school’s STEM curriculum. And at an assembly at Dilworth elementary school, the advocacy group Strong Women, Strong Girls received $35,000 for their technology programs, including a mobile computer lab.

At each event, veterans and students received free Dell laptops and a gift card for six months of free internet access.

Learn more about how to join the Comcast program here.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.