Comcast teams Up With Olympic Swimmer Simone Manuel to promote Oakland WiFi Lift Zones

(Image credit: Comcast)


Comcast said that as part of its ongoing commitment to help connect low-income families to the Internet, it will equip 20 community centers and parks and recreation facilities in Oakland with free WiFi for the next three years. As part of its efforts to promote the initiative, part of its Lift Zones program to help low income students complete school work on the internet, the company is enlisting the help of two-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Simone Manuel.

Manuel spoke virtually to Oakland students at a special event to kick off the initiative on Feb. 25.

“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,” Manuel said in a press release. “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.

“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 Comcast California regional senior vice president John Gauder, in the press release.  “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.”

Comcast created the Lift Zones program last September, a pledge to launch more than 1,000 WiFi zones in community centers across the country. The Lift Zones program is a complement to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which has helped connect more than eight million low-income people to the Internet at home, including more than one million California residents.

"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,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a press release. “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.”