Today Comcast announced plans to equip 20 Oakland community centers and parks and recreation facilities with free WiFi for the next three years. As part of its Lift Zones initiative, the company will provide robust WiFi coverage in these safe spaces, to help ensure Oakland students can remain online during the school year and continue to participate in distance learning.
The announcement was made today during a special event with 2x Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Simone Manuel, who spoke virtually with Oakland students about perseverance and the importance of following their dreams. She even answered a few questions from students including, “Can you teach me to swim?” and “Why did you become an Olympian?”
“The current health crisis has had a disproportionate effect on many students from communities of color, and I want these kids to know that there are people rooting for them,” said Simone Manuel, the first African American female swimmer to win gold in an individual swimming event at the 2016 Rio Games. “The lack of Internet access in low-income homes adds unique challenges to families that are trying to manage distance learning. I’m pleased to partner with Comcast to bring awareness to this important issue and help close the digital divide.”
In addition to providing free WiFi at the various Lift Zone locations, Comcast contributed $100,000 to the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation and gave 1,000 students their own free laptop computer and free Internet at home for 12 months (to eligible families) through its Internet Essentials program. Students we’re elated to hear that they would be going home with a brand-new laptop.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation to install free WiFi and provide digital skills training to ensure students can stay connected with their schools during this challenging time,” said John Gauder, regional senior vice president, Comcast California. “The COVID-19 crisis continues to put many low-income students at risk of being left behind, accelerating the need for comprehensive digital equity and Internet adoption programs to support them. Whether connecting to the Internet at home with our Internet Essentials program, or providing free WiFi at community centers, we’re helping to ensure students have multiple options to get online.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on many inequities in our society including the digital divide. Parents who are essential workers or those who can’t work from home have been questioning how to handle distance learning for their children,” said Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf. “That’s why we are grateful that Comcast has partnered with the City of Oakland to provide these crucial technology resources and stepped in to fill an important need in the community.”
At the event, Mayor Schaaf virtually encouraged students to keep connected to their schoolwork and the world around them. She also thanked Comcast for helping close the digital divide and partnering in creating what she’s calling, Oakland Undivided.
Last September, Comcast announced a multi-year program to launch more than 1,000 WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” in community centers nationwide, working with its network of thousands of nonprofit partners and city leaders. Lift Zone sites complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which has helped connect more than eight million low-income people to the Internet at home. This includes more than one million residents across the state of California.
Since the Internet Essentials program’s launch in 2011, Comcast has donated tens of thousands of free laptops to students and families across the country, and invested $700 million in digital literacy, skills training and awareness programs that have reached 11 million people. For more information on Internet Essentials visit the site.