Comcast to deploy 1,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots for online learning

Comcast has had a couple of fantastic quarters in terms of broadband additions, and it’s making an effort to give back so that kids can access the internet for their schoolwork. Today, Comcast launched a multi-year program to provide free Wi-Fi at more than 1,000 community centers in the United States. It’s working with city leaders and nonprofit organizations to install these Wi-Fi spots, which it refers to as “Lift Zones.” The goal is to help students participate in distance learning and to do their homework.

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In addition to the free internet via Wi-Fi, Comcast will provide access to hundreds of hours of educational content to help families and site coordinators hone their digital skills and navigate online learning.

The first 200 Lift Zones have already been identified in locations including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Trenton, Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. Several are open and others will open this year in more than a dozen cities. Examples include the Harvey Johnson Community Center at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore, the gang intervention center BUILD in Chicago, and The Sanneh Foundation Distance Learning Hub in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lift Zones complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which the company started in 2011. Internet Essentials offers deeply-discounted $9.95 internet connectivity for low-income people. The company offered Internet Essentials for free during its Keep Americans Connected Pledge at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. And it’s currently offering a 60-day-free promotion of the service through 2020. A Comcast spokesperson said the company has “seen strong interest in the 60-days-free offer, but have not disclosed a specific number externally.”

Comcast says more than 8 million people have tapped its Internet Essentials service for home broadband over the years.

The broadband provider also continues to extend free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, through the end of 2020. These hotspots are located in public places like small businesses, parks, and transportation hubs and are in addition to the Lift Zones.