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Comcast has committed more than $40 million in cash to its digital equity causes in the past year, including a fresh $3.5 million in grants to help close the digital divide.

Comcast today announced $3.5 million for partners including CodePath, Genesys Works, Jobs for the Future, NPower, I.C. Stars, Opportunity at Work, Goodwill, YWCA, and Philadelphia Youth Network.

The Philadelphia-based internet provider also said it plans to accelerate its grant activity in 2021 as it rolls out more of its Lift Zone Community Center sites to over 1,000 locations across the country.

The program aims to address the wealth discrepancy when it comes to internet access, boost digital literacy, and close the so-called homework gap. The new and expanded efforts are designed to help connect as many Americans to the internet as possible and create new opportunities for underrepresented communities through the education, resources, and skills training they need to succeed in today’s digital economy.

Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said in a statement that the company has focused on addressing inequities in under-resourced communities through the Internet Essentials program for more than a decade but that the need is greater now.

Above: Comcast Internet Essentials — Strawberry Mansion High School Giveaway on Friday, August 31, 2020 in Philadelphia.

Image Credit: Joy Asico/Comcast

Comcast redoubled its efforts in 2020, as COVID-19 highlighted the gap in internet access for kids who had to connect remotely to get their schoolwork done.

Since 2011, Comcast says it has connected millions of people to the internet at home; donated tens of thousands of free laptops to students and families across the country; and invested $700 million in digital literacy, skills training, and awareness programs that have reached 11 million people.

Comcast is now doubling the program’s internet download speed to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and increasing the upstream speed to 5Mbps for all new and existing customers at no additional cost. To receive the increased internet speeds, existing customers will not need to do anything, and the new speeds will be rolled out nationally beginning March 1.

This is the sixth time in 10 years that Comcast has increased broadband speeds for Internet Essentials customers while keeping the cost of the service at $9.95 a month. Comcast also rolled out its xFi and xFi Advanced Security product features to Internet Essentials customers for free, and the company is still offering 60 days of free service to any new Internet Essentials customer who signs up before June 30, 2021.

Above: Comcast has accelerated its investment in Lift Zones.

Image Credit: Comcast

Comcast also recently announced a multi-year program to launch more than 1,000 Lift Zones in community centers across the country by working with its network of thousands of nonprofit partners and city leaders. So far, Comcast says it has installed several hundred Lift Zones to further address the homework gap. Lift Zones provide safe spaces for students to access free Wi-Fi so they can participate in distance learning and complete 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.

Comcast is also expanding its targeted philanthropic investments in organizations working to increase digital equity and contribute to the collective action needed to drive sustained change. These new organizations and investments are focused on creating greater pathways to opportunities for communities of color, particularly in media, technology, arts, and entrepreneurship.

Since last year, Comcast has committed more than $40 million in cash to education and equity-focused partners that share the company’s goals of advancing social justice and equality. These partners include Per Scholas, Coded by Kids, Center for Black Innovation, Inner-City Arts, and Build.org.

Together, Comcast and its partners are helping more people of color gain the education and critical workforce development skills needed to access career opportunities in media and technology.

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