By the end of 2021, there should be about 1,000 areas open so that students and other people in the community can access free Wi-Fi according to Comcast.
During the pandemic, Comcast made an announcement that the company would begin working on over 1,000 locations that could help people who don’t have internet access go online. These areas are called Lift Zones and will be spread out across the country, especially in rural areas where homes might not be able to connect to the internet because of a lack of services that providers are able to offer. Comcast wants the zones to have fast internet to be safe for those who need to use them, especially for students who need to do homework or use the internet for other reasons. The zones will also offer content for families so that they can learn how to better navigate the internet in order to keep up when they go back to school or so that they can better complete their assignments if they do need to stay out of school for a longer period of time. The company has invested over $600 million to launch the zones and in educational materials and training in order to give students and families the best opportunities possible.
The company hopes that it can have most, if not all, of the Lift Zones in place by the end of 2021 as long as everything goes according to plan. Some of the first cities where the zones were built include Chicago, Trenton, and Baltimore. Partnering with libraries, schools, and community centers has allowed Comcast to better connect with those who need the assistance more than others and to have a place where the zones can be set up instead of constructing new buildings. Hotspots that Comcast has shared in areas of the country should still be available for at least another three years or longer depending on the need for them and the funding to keep them in place.
While the Lift Zones might be a new program that was launched as a way to help families during the pandemic, Comcast has had several other programs in place over the past 10 years or more to help those who are low-income so that they have a way to connect to the internet. The Internet Essentials Program started in 2011 and offers affordable fast internet to those who are in a lower income bracket so that they can have some of the same opportunities as other households. There have been about 8 million families who have benefited from this service as of 2020 with the number steadily growing. The company has also helped with over 100,000 subsidized computers for those who aren’t able to afford them. Another way that Comcast has helped families stay connected is by offering basic internet services for less than $10 a month.
Into the Future
Comcast has invested about $1 billion in its Lift Zones and other programs for the next decade in order to try to bridge the digital divide that’s plaguing the country. There doesn’t appear to be one thing that stands out that can help with this issue, but CEO Evan Marwell hopes that the Lift Zones can be a step forward in keeping families connected and in making sure children stay where they should in school.