SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Low-income students in Salt Lake City and Ogden will receive access to WiFi “Lift Zones” aimed at providing fully-equipped safe spaces to participate in distance learning.
Comcast has announced plans with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell to equip 35 locations with free WiFi-connected “Lift Zones,” otherwise known as public WiFi hot spots, by the end of 2021.
“We are investing in this project because the pandemic has put countless low-income students at risk of being left behind,” says Deneiva Knight, director of external affairs at Comcast. “That has accelerated the need for comprehensive digital equity and Internet access and adoption programs, such as Lift Zones.”
Comcast says Lift Zones are designed to help those students who may be unable to connect to distance learning at home or who want or need another place to study.
“The urgency of this service has never been greater,” explains Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “Kids can now have dependable Internet resources in a good learning environment. That reliable internet is a key component of our YouthCity programming service, the Comcast partnership will help keep our students connected.”
Photos courtesy Comcast
The partnership will expand Utah’s network of public WiFi hotspots in safe spaces like parks and recreation centers, as well as other non-profit and community centers in low-income neighborhoods.
“We expect to help tens of thousands of low-income students get online, participate in distance learning, and do their homework when schools reopen and it’s safe to gather in a socially distanced manner,” Knight says.
Initially, organizers say Lift Zones will be activated at Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, Youth Impact Center of Ogden, Suazo Business Center, YWCA Utah, and Tracy Aviary Jordan River Nature Center.
“Tech and innovation have always been critical and foundational parts of my vision for our capital city,” says Mendenhall. “There’s an incredible value in these public-private partnerships that we simply can’t afford to bring the level and the quality of internet that our residents need and deserve.
“Our goal is to provide free Internet connectivity and access to hundreds of hours of educational and digital skills content to help families and site coordinators navigate online learning,” Knight says. “Lift Zones complement Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which, since 2011, has helped connect millions of low-income people to the Internet at home.”
Comcast says that in addition to the Lift Zones initiative, public, private, and non-profit partners are working together to provide internet access to hundreds of Utahns in need, including seniors and families.