Comcast adds local ‘Lift Zones’ for low income families; Clash with Biden over ‘net’ bills could be in the offing

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Comcast announced it is equipping eight different locations in New Castle County with WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” as part of its plan to help connect low-income families to the Internet.

The following  eight sites are expected to help approximately 600 low-income students get online: 

  • Greater Newark Boys & Girls Club (Bear)
  • Clarence Fraim Boys & Girls Club (Wilmington)
  • Latin American Community Center (Wilmington)
  • Kingswood Community Center (Wilmington)
  • Police Athletic League of Wilmington 
  • Walnut Street YMCA (Wilmington)
  • Bellevue Community Center (Wilmington)
  • West End Neighborhood House (Wilmington)

Comcast also announced plans to spend $1 billion nationwide over the next 10 years to bridge the digital divide. 

In  Delaware, more than 84,000 residents have been connected to the Internet through Internet Essentials. That includes more than 52,000 in New Castle County.  The service is offered at a fare lower cost than standard Internet service. 

Since 2011, the company has now connected more than 10 million people in America to broadband Internet at home, most for the first time.

A new goal to reach 50 million students and individuals through Internet Essentials, free WiFi through our community Lift Zones initiative, and digital literacy training program grants over the next 10 years.

“It is more important than ever for local families to be able to get support and access to critical resources like the Internet at our center,” said Logan Herring, CEO of Kingswood Community Center, REACH Riverside and The Warehouse. “We are thankful to be part of Comcast’s Lift Zone program so that we can provide the WiFi coverage needed for students to continue their education online.”

“The pandemic has put many low-income families at risk of being left behind, and we’re proud to work with community partners to support them with Internet adoption and digital equity programs like this one,” said Jim Samaha, senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region. “We hope these Lift Zones help New Castle County families stay connected to vital resources.”  

Comcast has not been universally praised for Internet Essentials, with some community leaders calling for those living below the poverty level to receive the service free of charge. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is likely to clash with Comcast and other cable giants over a $100 billion infrastructure proposal to bolstering publicly owned Internet systems and increasing low-cost access.

The administration argues that rates for Internet access are higher in the U.S. than in other nations with the quality of service not on par with countries such as South Korea.

By contrast, Republicans have attempted to make life more difficult for existing public systems via legislation.

The only municipally-owned cable Internet system in the region is in Easton, MD.

Comcast continues to upgrade its system and advertise heavily regarding its high speeds.  Still, complaints continue to be posted over the cost and inability to handle remote work and school demands.

More densely populated Delaware areas are served by Verizon Fios and Comcast or Verizon and Atlantic Broadband in Middletown.

Neither has been aggressive with discounting. Verizon, at one point weighing the prospects of selling its FiOS system in anticipation of its cheaper wireless high-speed networks taking over.

Wilmington has Comcast only along with aerial signal-based Why Fly. Other areas of the state have one provider.

Often coming in for criticism is Mediacom, which serves some beach areas. Comcast is expanding into some of Mediacom’s territory in coastal Sussex County.

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