Submitted by Rodrigo Lopez for Comcast

There is a major challenge in cities all across Washington state, big and small: it’s called the digital divide and it’s here in Thurston County. Broadband connectivity is something we’re working hard to fix through Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. It’s the state’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program.

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Comcast’s Internet Essentials program is helping families get connected to affordable broadband internet at home. Photo courtesy: Comcast

Ten years of work has resulted in approximately 17,000 low-income people in Thurston County having internet service in their home, many for the first time.

Internet Essentials has broken down the barrier to internet adoption. It includes literacy training, access to a low-cost Internet-ready computer, and Internet service for $9.95 a month.

Connectivity in the home continues to be our top priority, and the number one solution for our residents to access online resources. But it’s is not the only answer.

We recognize that we also play an important role connecting people to the internet outside of the home. Thousands of Washingtonians depend on community centers for access to internet resources. Our Lift Zone initiative aims to address that need.

We are equipping 80 community centers in the state with free, internet service to help students in need of a safe place for distance learning. This includes Lift Zones in Thurston County, like the one we are building with Lacey Veterans Hub.

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In 2021, Comcast is opening 80 Wi-Fi connected safe spaces across the state called ‘Lift Zones,’ that help families and kids stay connected. Photo courtesy: Comcast

Lift Zones will help thousands of people who may need a place to access online education, healthcare and employment resources.

Each Lift Zone provides free internet service to the community center run by a nonprofit, city or business. Some are open now and more will be open in the coming months. Open Lift Zones may be found at the Internet Essentials website.

Earlier this year, Comcast announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to help further close the digital divide.

This long-term investment will help 50 million Americans. Funds will go toward Lift Zones, laptops and computers, grants for nonprofits, and Internet Essentials.

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Comcast Washington continues to invest money, technology and other resources to help every community it serves bridge the digital divide. Photo courtesy: Comcast

This news comes on the heels of a series of initiatives announced during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Increased Internet Essentials speeds to give families at home had the speeds they needed .
  • Joined Washington’s K-12 Internet Access Program. This program has helped thousands of students get home internet for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Developed the Internet Essentials Partnership Program. This program provides broadband service to hundreds of schools and nonprofit partners.
  • Offered 60 days of free Internet service to new Internet Essentials customers who needed to get online during the pandemic. This program runs through 2021.
  • Opened more than 70,000 public WiFi hotspots for people to connect to during the current pandemic.
  • Built an online learning center with 200 digital literacy training videos and guides that are free to anyone to use.

For more information about Internet Essentials and Comcast’s commitment to education and digital equity, please visit the Comcast website. Families and households can apply for Internet Essentials on the Internet Essentials website or by phone at 1-855-846-8376 for English or 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

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