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Comcast Partners with Olympian Simone Manuel to Announce Free WiFi for Students and Their Families at 20 Oakland Community Centers

As part of its ongoing commitment to help connect low-income students and families to the Internet so they can fully participate in educational opportunities and the digital economy, 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 thousands of low-income 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.

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“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 Manuelthe 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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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, which is the number one state in terms of overall participation in the Internet Essentials program.

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. Comcast recently announced that it was doubling the program’s Internet download speed to 50 Mbps and increasing the upstream speed to 5 Mbps for all new and existing customers at no additional cost. The company continues to offer 60 days of free service to any new Internet Essentials customer who signs up before June 30, 2021.

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