As part of its ongoing commitment to help connect low-income families to the Internet so they can fully participate in educational opportunities and the digital economy, Comcast on Nov. 16 announced plans to equip more than 20 different locations in the Twin Cities with WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” before the end of 2020.
Working with its network of nonprofit partners, Comcast is providing robust WiFi hotspots in safe spaces designed to help students get online, participate in distance learning and do their homework. This initiative provides free connectivity inside partner community centers for the next three years.
The Sanneh Foundation Distanced Learning Hub at Conway Community Center in St. Paul was the first of 14 Lift Zones installed in the Twin Cities. The Sanneh Foundation Distanced Learning Hub provides much-needed help to parents and guardians by providing a safe place each day for more than 140 students during normal school hours. The Lift Zone features free WiFi provided by Comcast, which allows students to work on laptops simultaneously so they can successfully participate in distance learning.
“Working parents across our community have been wondering how to handle distance learning for their children. In addition, many parents are not able to afford daycare or access to the technology needed for distance learning at home,” said Tony Sanneh, founder and CEO, The Sanneh Foundation. “That's why we are so grateful Comcast has partnered with us to provide these crucial resources and stepped in to fill an important need.”
“We are proud to partner with community organizations across the Twin Cities and equip them with free internet service and the digital training skills that will provide kids with safe, fast and reliable connectivity to keep up with school and prepare for a brighter future,” said J.D. Keller, regional senior vice president, Comcast Twin Cities. “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. We hope these Lift Zones will help those students who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to connect to effective distance learning at home.”
Twin Cities community organizations that have established Lift Zones in their respective facilities include:
- Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities locations
- Al Lenzmeier West Side, St. Paul
- East Side, St. Paul
- Jerry Gamble Center, Minneapolis
- Mount Airy, St. Paul
- Southside Village, South Minneapolis
- Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, St. Paul
- Keystone Community Services, St. Paul
- Neighborhood House, St. Paul
- Perspectives Family Center, St. Louis Park
- Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, Minneapolis
- Pillsbury United Communities, Brian Coyle Center, Minneapolis
- The Real Minneapolis, Allina Commons, Minneapolis
- The Sanneh Foundation, Conway Community Center, St. Paul
- Vietnamese Social Services, St. Paul
Several more Twin Cities Lift Zone partners are currently under consideration, including YMCA of the North and Division of Indian Work in partnership with the Phillips Indian Educators of Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors group, with the goal to have all locations installed by early 2021.
In addition, the company is providing free access to all outdoor WiFi hotspots until the end of 2020, plus hundreds of hours of digital skills content to help families and site coordinators navigate online learning. Lift Zone sites complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which has helped connect more than 8 million low-income people to the Internet at home, including more than 172,000 Minnesotans.