Internet connectivity is more vital today than ever before. The economic strain presented by the novel coronavirus has jeopardized the ability of many low income households to remain connected to friends, family, and resources that can prove vital to alleviating uncertainty.

Comcast, the cable and internet behemoth, is responding by initiating a program designed specifically to benefit low-income veterans.

“We recognize that our company plays an important role in helping the military community stay connected to their families, the VA and other health services, and the latest information about the virus — through the Internet,” Charlie Douglas, vice president of corporate communications, wrote in a company release.

Thousands of veterans are expected to qualify for the company’s Internet Essentials program, which, effective March 16, will provide two free months of internet service.

Installation is free and no contracts are necessary, meaning the service can be canceled for no charge at the end of the second month. Beyond month two, users can opt to “remain in the program as paying customers at the heavily discounted Internet Essentials rate of $9.95 a month,” the release said.

Internet speed for Internet Essentials users is also being increased — to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream — for no additional charge. The speed update will automatically go into effect without any action required on the part of the customer, the release said.

More than one million former military personnel qualified for eligibility when Comcast first extended the Internet Essentials program to low-income veterans in 2018.

“The poverty rate for vets between 18 and 34 years old is higher than all other age groups, with veterans of the Gulf War and Afghanistan having higher poverty rates than other veterans,” Douglas said. “Many low-income veterans returning from service face significant challenges in finding work and making ends meet. This is simply unacceptable.”

Veterans can check whether they qualify and sign up for the Internet Essentials program’s offer of two free months of internet by visiting the program’s website, which also offers desktop computers and laptops that start at $149.99.

“You may qualify if you are eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others,” the company’s page states.

The company has also announced it will be creating Xfinity Wifi hot spots, which will be free to use and located across the country. Those interested can see a list of hot spot locations on the Xfinity page.

Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.

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