Lift Zones provide safe spaces to help students and families access the Internet for school and digital skills building
Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Bright Star Community Outreach, BUILD and Chatham Business Association named initial Lift Zone partners in Chicago – more to come
September 17, 2020 – Comcast announced today plans to establish WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” at the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC), Bright Star Community Outreach (BSCO), Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development (BUILD), Chatham Business Association (CBA), and other sites in Chicago to come. As part of its commitment, Comcast will provide robust WiFi connectivity at Lift Zone sites to create safe spaces where students and families can get online for school, to learn new skills or to search for employment. Lift Zones partners will also include community organizations that support small businesses.
The COVID-19 crisis has put many low-income students and families at risk of being left behind and has accelerated the need for comprehensive digital equity and Internet adoption programs to support them. Through Chicago Connected and in partnership with Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools and dozens of community-based organizations, Comcast is already working to bring the Internet into thousands of additional homes to ease the challenges of distance learning and remote work. Lift Zones, which are designed to provide additional connectivity in Chicago’s neighborhoods, are another resource for community-based learning. As part of the Lift Zones program, Comcast also plans to provide access to hundreds of hours of educational and digital skills content to help families and staff onsite navigate online learning.
“With COVID-19 impacting everything from education to work, Internet connectivity at home and in locations across the city is crucial,” said Chicago 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas, Chair of the City Council’s Economic, Capital and Technology Development Committee. “I called on the private sector to expand WiFi access in the neighborhoods, and the Lift Zones are a major step forward.”
“Part of our mission is to help prepare the youth we serve to enter the workforce, and education is the key,” said Craig Chico, President and Chief Executive Officer of BYNC, which serves several southwest side neighborhoods in addition to Back of the Yards. “The Lift Zones will help students in our communities who have no other way of gaining access to the Internet a way to participate in remote learning.”
“The youth we serve face so many obstacles in their everyday lives, especially now in light of COVID-19,” added Adam M. Alonso, Chief Executive Officer of BUILD, which is based in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and serves youth in locations across the city. “BUILD is proud to join Comcast and other community partners throughout the city to create safe places where youth can connect, learn and get the chance to succeed in school.”
The Chicago Lift Zones are part of a larger multiyear plan by Comcast to support community-organization based WiFi locally and launch more than 1,000 Lift Zones throughout the country. The Lift Zones are an extension of the company’s longstanding commitment to help connect low-income families to the Internet and provide resources to help them take advantage of educational opportunities and the digital economy. The Lift Zones complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, a low-cost Internet adoption program for low-income families, which has helped connect more than 8 million people to the Internet at home since it was launched in 2011. Lift Zones also extend the Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP), through which Comcast partners with school districts, housing authorities and other organizations to provide Internet service at home to eligible households at no cost to them. Locally, Chicago Public Schools, through Chicago Connected, the Housing Authority of Cook County and School District U-46 in Chicago’s northwest suburbs are participating in the IEPP.
“Through Internet Essentials, Comcast has helped thousands of families in Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods cross the digital divide,” said Matthew Summy, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of External and Government Affairs. “I’m proud that Comcast recognized the impact of the digital divide early on, stepped up and now continues to offer solutions that further our commitment to communities in light of COVID-19 through the creation of the Lift Zones and the Internet Essentials Partnership Program.”
Comcast reiterated that it will continue to offer, through the end of 2020, all new Internet Essentials customers two months of free Internet service and it will waive the requirement that customers not have back debt so more families can apply. Comcast also continues to extend free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity WiFi 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, which will be new, additional locations where individuals and students can get online for free.
Lastly, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program also makes a range of educational resources available online for anyone to access at: www.internetessentials.com/learning. The Learning Portal provides videos and materials about topics like: Internet Basics, Online Safety and Security, Building New Skills, and Getting Things Done. The site also links to a number of free educational websites for students.
About the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council
The BYNC’s mission is to enhance the general welfare of all residents, organizations and businesses in its service area. Integrating social service and economic development programs into a single community-based intermediary organization, BYNC takes a holistic approach to addressing the social problems that have plagued the Back of the Yards neighborhood and surrounding communities.
BUILD is one of Chicago’s leading gang intervention, violence prevention and youth development organizations. BUILD’s mission is to engage at-risk youth in schools and on the streets to help them realize their potential and contribute to our communities. BUILD focuses on hard-to-serve youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods.
About Bright Star Community Outreach
Our mission is to empower residents to share in the responsibility of building community through resource development and collaborative partnerships. We will accomplish our mission by developing innovative performance-based practices and programs to address the need for Violence Prevention, Community Engagement, Economic Development, Education, Healthy Children/Youth and Families.
About Chatham Business Association
Chatham Business Association is a small business resource center that offers an array of customized services and programs designed to assist businesses. Areas of assistance include: expansion and growth through economic development, strategic planning, technical training, business trend workshops, access to capital assistance, effective collaborative marketing programs and government certification.
About Comcast Corporation
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with three primary businesses: Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Sky. Comcast Cable is one of the United States’ largest video, high-speed Internet, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses. It also provides wireless and security and automation services to residential customers under the Xfinity brand. NBCUniversal is global and operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts. Sky is one of Europe’s leading media and entertainment companies, connecting customers to a broad range of video content through its pay television services. It also provides communications services, including residential high-speed Internet, phone, and wireless services. Sky operates the Sky News broadcast network and sports and entertainment networks, produces original content, and has exclusive content rights. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.
With around 6,000 local employees, Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region
(https://chicago.comcast.com) serves customers in central and northern Illinois, including the Chicago area, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. “Like” Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region on Facebook by visiting @Comcast. “Follow” Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region on Twitter at @ComcastIllinois.