Comcast says it plans to accelerate internet access, advance digital equity resources this year

Children studying at a Snohomish County Boys & Girls Club. (Photo courtesy Comcast)

Comcast Washington has announced new initiatives that the company said are designed to advance digital equity, close the digital divide, and address digital literacy throughout the state.

Starting March 1, Comcast will be doubling the download and upload speeds of its low-income internet adoption service, Internet Essentials, for new and existing customers at no additional cost. The new speeds will be added to customers’ accounts automatically, increasing download speed to 50 Mbps and upstream speed to 5 Mbps. These speeds support multiple concurrent videoconferencing sessions and enable family members with multiple kids to learn and work from home, Comcast said.

Comcast also is increasing the number of Wi-Fi-connected community centers called “Lift Zones” the company is launching in Washington state to help those without internet at home find safe, free places to get online. And the company announced it would be offering more than $40 million in cash and digital equity grants for nonprofits nationwide working to address equity issues.

Comcast Internet Essentials is now supporting families across 89 school districts in the state — including the Edmonds School District — through the WA State K-12 Internet Access program, provided by Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). To date the company and OPSI have offered service to more than 55,000 households during the pandemic through this partnership.

“Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has been a key component of successful remote learning in our state,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “These faster internet speeds will make a difference for students as they continue engaging with their educators and peers virtually.”

According to Comcast, this is the sixth time in 10 years that the company has increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of the service at $9.95 a month. In addition, Comcast continues to offer 60 days of free service to any new Internet Essentials customer who signs up before June 30, 2021.

Lift Zones provide safe spaces for students to access free Wi-Fi so they can participate in distance learning and do their schoolwork. Comcast is now accelerating that timeline to connect 1,000 Lift Zones by the end of this year – more than a year ahead of its original plan. The company has Lift Zones launched with key partners — including the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club in Lynnwood and the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club — and is actively working with and seeking partners across its service footprint statewide to open more throughout the year.

“The Lift Zones are really playing a big part in their futures. If students are not in school, their school is literally right in front of them on a laptop. And if they can’t log on and actively participate, they are missing out on school,” said Marci Volmer, COO – The Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.


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