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Emerald South and Comcast Launch the South Side Connectivity Collaborative, an Internet Connectivity Initiative Focused on areas of Chicago’s South Side

Thousands of residents in four south side neighborhoods stand to benefit from additional opportunities to connect to the Internet for schoolwork, digital skill building, access to services and job searches

The Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative and Comcast today announced the launch of the South Side Connectivity Collaborative (SSCC). Powered by Comcast, the new initiative is designed to connect more residents of four South Side neighborhoods to the Internet through a combination of new resources and existing programs. The neighborhoods include Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, Washington Park and Woodlawn.

“Our goal is to connect more South Side residents by giving them more opportunities to access reliable, high-speed Internet in locations within their communities and educating them about how they can connect at home via existing broadband adoption programs,” said Emerald South CEO, Ghian Foreman. “The participating organizations are coming together to both increase connectivity in locations throughout the four neighborhoods and play a leading role for Chicago families as they build digital and other skills that will help them succeed in school and in the workforce.”

Comcast Lift Zones will connect kids and adults to the Internet at community centers throughout the four neighborhoods

In the coming months, Comcast will launch 11 “Lift Zones” at community-based organizations (CBO) across the four neighborhoods. Lift Zones are WiFi-enabled safe spaces where students can get online to do schoolwork and adults can get online to learn digital skills, access government and other important services and search for employment. SSCC Lift Zone locations include:

*Lift Zones in these locations opened in December 2020 and will become part of the SSCC Lift Zone network.

“KLEO was proud to partner with Comcast to open one of the first Lift Zones in the nation back in December 2020,” said Ereatha McCullough, K.L.E.O Executive Director. “Since then, hundreds of people have come in and connected to the reliable, high-speed Internet onsite. This has been especially important for kids participating in distance learning programs and families that need a community resource during the pandemic. Without the Lift Zone, some kids wouldn’t have been able to attend school or participate in KLEO’s youth programs, which are so important to their development and to the future of our city.”

Comcast to provide funding and laptops to participating CBOs

In addition to the Lift Zones, Comcast will provide a total of $60,000 in donations to participating SSCC CBOs to support digital skills training and other programs and services. The company will also donate laptops to the Lift Zone host organizations for use by families.

SSCC to educate area residents about existing broadband adoption programs and other digital resources

Emerald South and Comcast will partner with the participating CBOs to educate residents about existing programs that can get – and keep – families connected to the Internet at home, ranging from the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Chicago Connected program and Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB). Through Chicago Connected, Comcast’s Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP) joined with CPS and dozens of CBOs to connect tens of thousands of students to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to partner to expand access to Chicago families. Comcast is also working with 75 other regional school districts, government agencies and not-for-profits to ensure connectivity is available to qualified student households.

Internet Essentials is a widely available low-cost at-home broadband Internet service for qualified low-income families, seniors, veterans, college students, people with disabilities and others participating in public assistance programs, ranging from Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and housing assistance programs. Many Chicago households may qualify to have their Internet service subsidized by the EBB, a temporary subsidy program from the Federal Government designed to help low-income households connect to the Internet and stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis. Under EBB, qualified households can receive a monthly credit of up to $50/month (up to $75/month for customers in Tribal lands) toward their Internet service and leased Internet equipment until the program’s funding runs out.

Internet Essentials is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since it launched in 2011, the program has connected more than 10 million people nationwide – including more than 1 million  Illinois residents alone –  to the Internet at home. Comcast plans to open more than 1,000 Lift Zones across the country by the end of this year – with more than 60 in the Chicago area and locations throughout Central Illinois and Northwest Indiana.

“These neighborhoods have the available infrastructure to connect households to the Internet today, but we need to link families to resources, such as Chicago Connected, Internet Essentials and the Emergency Broadband Benefit, to activate this incredible tool for equity,” said Chicago 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King. “The SSCC will not only help residents learn more about these programs, the Lift Zones will add an important new layer by providing high-speed Internet access and educational content in safe spaces at nearly a dozen new community locations.”

“The collaborative is an incredible vehicle that shows what happens when communities, non-profit organizations and companies like Comcast come together to address important issues like digital equity,” said Chicago 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell. “The SSCC will not only have a positive impact on the South Side, it will serve as an example of how parties can come together for the betterment of the communities they serve.”

“We recognize having the Internet at home can change lives. Our goal as a member of the collaborative is to put digital equity at the center of communities by working together with our partners to ensure Chicago families know there are multiple options to bring broadband into their homes,” 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 and continues to step up, this time partnering with Emerald South and the other south side CBOs to offer real solutions like the SSCC and Lift Zones that can strengthen communities.”

Comcast continues to offer two months of free service to new Internet Essentials customers that enroll by June 30, 2022. Comcast also has extended free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, through the end of 2021. The hotspots are located in public places, ranging from small businesses and parks to transportation hubs, and are in addition to the Lift Zones.

For more information about Lift Zones and to find locations near you, click here.

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