Comcast invests $225,000 in Fresno to increase Internet access
About 200 children celebrated a new investment in their West Fresno community on Thursday morning.
“When I say west, you say Fresno,” Pastor David J. “DJ” Criner of Saint Rest Baptist Church told the children. “West!”
“Fresno,” shouted the children gathered in the church playground, waving yellow and green pom-poms.
The children cheered in response to the announcement that Comcast would create a new Wi-Fi hotspot – known as the Lift Zone – at the church. Through this Lift Zone and 15 others across the county, Comcast aims to help communities connect to the Internet so they can participate in online education opportunities and the digital economy, according to the company.
It was just one of many investments announced by Comcast on Thursday morning. The company also donated $25,000 to Saint Rest for a new computer lab and surprised every child in attendance with a free laptop. He also invested $200,000 in Bitwise Industries paid tech apprenticeships, supporting the nonprofit’s mission to empower, train and inspire people to join the tech workforce.
By partnering with and investing in community organizations, Comcast aims to earn the trust of community members and bridge the digital divide, said Broderick Johnson, Comcast’s executive vice president of public policy and digital equity. .
“One of the biggest barriers to people getting broadband … has to do with a lack of trust in institutions, governments and businesses,” Johnson said. “There’s no guarantee that (the digital divide) will be bridged unless we have people the community trusts.”
These new investments continue Comcast’s efforts to connect more Fresno County communities to the Internet. About a quarter of all county households lacked internet access in December 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic increased people’s reliance on it.
Earlier this year, Comcast invested $1 million in the rural community of Biola and opened a lift zone in the Biola Community Services District. This investment also included a $100,000 donation to local community organizations, including Fresno State Parent University and Reading & Beyond, to provide digital literacy training to members of the Biola community.
Comcast invests in the Fresno community
Saint Rest Baptist Church is located southwest of downtown Fresno. More than 60% of the residents surrounding it live below the poverty line, according to US Census data. The surrounding neighborhood is 71% Latino, making for a predominantly black and brown congregation, said Charleston Adams, a youth pastor at Saint Rest.
Fresno Councilmember Miguel Arias represents District 3, the city’s southwest neighborhood. He said a few years ago that the postcode 93706 – where Saint Rest is located – was only talked about nationally because it had the highest concentration of poverty.
“Those of us at Fresno knew he also had the highest concentration of potential,” Arias added.
Adams, the youth pastor, said investments in technology thrill students and help them reach that potential.
“Some of them,” he said, “if it weren’t for today, would never have had access to their own personal laptops.”
After announcing the donations to Saint Rest, Johnson went to Bitwise Industries.
“This is the third time I’ve done something like Santa Claus,” Johnson told a group of Bitwise apprentices who are learning technical skills for jobs in e-commerce, online marketing and software development. Web sites.
He was seconds away from announcing the surprise $200,000 donation to the apprenticeship program. The funds are part of Comcast’s ongoing partnership with the Fresno-based nonprofit.
More than 10,000 people have been trained at Bitwise and 80% have found “paying” technical jobs, a spokesperson for the association said.
A survey showed that their average intern is a 26-year-old Latina with a high school diploma, who previously worked in the fields, factories, restaurants or retail businesses. The survey also calculated that 41% of interns identified as LGBTQ+ and nearly half were either first-generation Americans or undocumented.
Amelia Guadarrama, a current apprentice and a native of Fresno, was surprised by the new investment, as were the other students in the room. She was a bridal seamstress before deciding she needed a career change.
“There will be so many more opportunities for people who thought maybe there wasn’t room for them,” Guadarrama said. “When I heard that, it’s just more people who are going to be able to change their lives and see themselves in these (tech) spaces.”