Executives from Comcast Corporation and Comcast’s Western New England Region, which serves 300 communities in Connecticut, Vermont, western Massachusetts, western New Hampshire and New York, today held a virtual summit on the topic of veterans to raise awareness of the impact the digital divide has on them. As part of the event, Comcast also announced several donations worth more than $220,000 to support digital inclusion efforts in Connecticut, Vermont and western Massachusetts.
In partnership with local officials, including Massachusetts Congressman Richard E. Neal and Connecticut Senator James Maroney, as well as several non-profit partners, the summit featured a panel discussion moderated by NBC Connecticut Anchor Ted Koppy on how the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital divide have further exacerbated issues for veterans.
Panelists held a robust and thoughtful conversation that examined how the use of the Internet, when coupled with social outreach programs, can help facilitate positive change for veterans impacted by social isolation, job loss, housing insecurity and more. Panelists included:
- Dorinda Borer, Connecticut State Representative and Veterans Affairs Chair
- Alfred Montoya, Chief Executive Officer & Medical Center Director, VA Connecticut Healthcare System
- Gumersindo Gomez, Executive Director, Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Mass Inc.
- Steve Hackley, Senior Vice President of Consumer Sales, Comcast Corporation
- U.S. Army Brigadier General (Ret.) Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal
- Dennis Mathew, Senior Vice President, Comcast’s Western New England Region
- Christina Morgan, Executive Director, Dodge House
- Josh Salazar, Senior Director of Military Services and Philanthropy, Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut
“Home broadband can be a lifeline for connecting with loved ones, services, news and entertainment,” said Connecticut Senator James Maroney, Chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee. “I applaud Comcast for the efforts it is making to support veteran-focused outreach programs, as well as its efforts to bring Internet Essentials to even more low-income veterans in our community, many who live on fixed incomes.”
“We need to unite with the diverse groups in our community to build a better future and the work Comcast is doing to connect more veterans to the internet at home is an integral part of this process,” added Connecticut State Representative Dorinda Borer, Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Following the panel discussion, Comcast announced four grants to support digital skills training for veterans and the development or expansion of technology labs. The grants included:
- $20,000 to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System;
- $20,000 to Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut;
- $20,000 to Dodge House in Rutland, Vermont; and
- $30,000 to the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts.
“Comcast is committed to supporting the men and women in our community who have stood up for our country and we are proud to partner with these organizations that provide veterans with access to life-changing digital tools and resources, including Internet Essentials, our low-cost broadband program.” said Dennis Mathew, Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Western New England Region.
In addition, Comcast surprised all four organizations with a total of 500 Dell laptops and 500 opportunity cards, which offer six-months of internet for free through Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.
Internet Essentials by Comcast offers low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, provides access to free digital skills training in print, online, and in person, and includes the option to purchase a low-cost Internet-ready computer. Since 2011, Internet Essentials has connected millions of low-income households to the Internet, most for the very first time. During that period, the program has grown from focusing on bridging the “homework gap” for school-age children to addressing digital equity issues for all Americans, especially veterans and senior citizens.
“At Easterseals, our Veterans Rally Point program serves a wide generational-range of veterans who are increasingly dependent on tech-based solutions to manage healthcare and stay-connected with their support systems,” said Josh Salazar, Senior Director of Marketing and Philanthropy for Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut. “Thanks to the ongoing dedication and generosity of Comcast, we have forged a unified front to address these issues by providing our veterans with access, laptops and a support system to help them achieve positive outcomes.”
“Many of our veterans experience barriers because they do not have an internet subscription at home or access to a library or drop-in center due to COVID-19 or a lack of transportation. Through the incredible support of Comcast, we will be able to create a safe space at Dodge House so local veterans can have reliable access to a computer, the internet, and a volunteer to teach digital skills,” said Christina Morgan, Executive Director of Dodge House. “This will enable our veterans to overcome some of the barriers that may prevent them from utilizing telehealth programs, virtual job fairs and other digital services being offered right now to keep people healthy, connected and productive during these times.”
Comcast NBCUniversal also has a partnership with Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the PsychArmor Institute, two of America’s leading veteran-serving non-profit organizations that helps support the creation of veteran-specific digital skills training videos and supplementary materials.