Free Wi-Fi access for thousands in southwest Fresno thanks to Comcast donation

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Friday, October 28, 2022
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Two-hundred students in southwest Fresno were surprised with free laptops. A new "Lift Zone" has also been created at Saint Rest Baptist Church.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two-hundred students in southwest Fresno were surprised with free laptops.

A new "Lift Zone" has also been created at Saint Rest Baptist Church.

That's Comcast's name for a community Wi-Fi center it has developed across the nation in an effort to bridge a gap in the local digital divide.

Pastor, DJ Criner, calls the Comcast donation a historic moment for his community.

"Comcast has allowed residents that over the course of years, have felt like they don't matter, that they and their lives, their job and education is just as relevant as any other side of town," says Pastor Criner.

Jessica Criner has three children who received a free laptop.

She recalls the digital difficulties she and many encountered during the pandemic.

"We would actually have kids sitting on our front lawn in front of the church trying to connect to Wi-Fi so that they can get their work done, so that was so heartbreaking because they did not have internet access at home," recalls Jessica.

The partnership between Comcast and this church means thousands of households will now have access to Wi-Fi.

"Our prayer is that the students who were able to come today see a community that cares, an organization that cares, a church that cares, but more than that, a community that says that they matter, their education matters, their future matters and there is hope," Pastor Criner mentions.

Comcast has sponsored 150 Wi-Fi centers like this across California.

Sixteen of those are in Fresno County.

Broderick Johnson is Comcast's Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Digital Equity.

He says, "In Fresno, the gaps, the disparities exist and they have existed, so we are looking for every opportunity we can to help close the divide. Fresno is a special place with special families and special children."

In addition to this donation, Comcast also granted $200,000 to BitWise in Fresno.

The money will help expand their apprenticeship program, which helps bridge a gap between learning and working in tech.