Comcast to Fast-Track Rollout of Free Wi-Fi Sites
Philadelphia-based Comcast on Tuesday announced plans to accelerate its rollout of free internet sites in the Twin Cities and across the country.
The internet provider aims to establish more than 1,000 “Lift Zones” – community spaces with free WiFi access– by 2021’s end. The company originally anticipated the program to be a multiyear effort.
The spaces are designed to help those who are unable to participate in distance learning or use other online resources at home. That includes children from low-income families.
Comcast set up its first 200 Lift Zones in 2020. So far, 31 Lift Zones have been installed in the Twin Cities metro, and more are on the way.
“Access to the internet is a critical component to providing digital equity for all, and we’re proud to partner with so many key community organizations in making that possible through our Lift Zones,” said J.D. Keller, senior VP for Comcast’s Twin Cities region. “There is no single answer to address the distance learning challenges of Covid-19, but we’re working hard to bridge the gap for as many students and families as possible.”
The company hasn’t yet released details on the total number of planned Lift Zones in the Twin Cities.
The Sanneh Foundation Distanced Learning Hub, located in St. Paul’s Conway Community Center, is one of the company’s Lift Zones in the Twin Cities. The hub is aimed at supporting working parents by hosting 140 students in grades 2-6 during normal school hours. It offers social-distanced access to educational technology, as well as tutoring and breakfast, lunch, and snack.
Sanneh also offers a nighttime enrichment program from 2-6 p.m. that includes dinner and snack. Participating families also receive a weekly box of fresh produce to take home.
Other locations in the region include the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in Minneapolis and the Perspectives Family Center in St. Louis Park.
Meanwhile, Comcast has also made a pledge to boost its internet speed and provide $3.5 million to help more people of color gain the education and career development skills necessary for jobs in media and technology. It’s part of company’s more than $40 million cash commitment to education and equity-focused partners.