- Comcast announced plans Monday to establish 29 WiFi-equipped “Lift Zones” in the Washington, DC metro area.
- The project aims to provide low-income students with internet access through participating community centers.
- COVID-19 has highlighted the disparity in internet access in the US as it forced schooling online.
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Comcast will roll out 29 of its WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Virginia over the next several weeks, the company announced Monday.
The aim of the project is to provide free internet access to low-income families so they can more easily attend virtual schooling, look for jobs, access online resources, and participate in the digital economy, Comcast said.
The internet provider plans to set up 15 of the the internet-connected zones in Baltimore, 13 in Washington, DC, and one in Virginia. Comcast Lift Zones will provide free WiFi at participating nonprofit organizations, including community centers, churches, and Boys and Girls Clubs.
“We are proud to partner with community organizations across the Baltimore and D.C. metro areas and equip them with fast WiFi service to provide kids with safe and reliable connectivity to learn, keep up with school and expand their educational opportunities,” Misty Allen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Comcast’s Beltway Region, said in a statement.
“We believe that these Lift Zones will provide another choice and make it convenient for students and families to connect at a trusted local nonprofit location.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced state and local governments to suspend in-person learning in favor of virtual alternatives, highlighting the lack of equitable internet access across the country.
A 2020 study from Common Sense, an education-focused nonprofit, found that between 15 million and 16 million US students lack adequate internet access for remote learning, and 9 million of those students also lack the necessary devices.
In New York City, a class-action lawsuit seeking to make the city provide WiFi in homeless shelters is moving to a trial. In a ruling earlier this month moving the suit to an expedited discovery, US District Judge Alison Nathan wrote: “Without internet connectivity, homeless students are deprived of the means to attend classes.” She added, “And because homeless children who lack internet access and reside in New York City shelters cannot attend school for as long as that deprivation exists, the City bears a duty, under the statute, to furnish them with the means necessary for them to attend school.”
Comcast has said it plans to launch more than 1,000 Lift Zones in coming years to help address this disparity in internet access. The company also runs an “Internet Essentials Partnership Program” which has partnered with cities, school districts, and community organizations to equip more than 4 million students with internet access at home.