Simone Manuel, Comcast Partner to Help Bridge Digital Divide in Oakland

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel and Comcast announced a partnership Thursday to help provide internet access to low-income families in Oakland, Calif.

Comcast contributed $100,000 to the city, along with 1,000 laptop computers and 12 months of free internet service to families in need via its Internet Essentials program. Comcast will also equip 20 community centers and parks and recreation facilities in Oakland with WiFi for the next three years as part of its Lift Zones initiative.

Manuel met with kids virtually on Thursday as part of a special event.

“The current health crisis has had a disproportionate effect on many students from communities of color, and I want these kids to know that there are people rooting for them,” Simone Manuel said in a press release. “The lack of Internet access in low-income homes adds unique challenges to families that are trying to manage distance learning. I’m pleased to partner with Comcast to bring awareness to this important issue and help close the digital divide.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on many inequities in our society including the digital divide. Parents who are essential workers or those who can’t work from home have been questioning how to handle distance learning for their children,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “That’s why we are grateful that Comcast has partnered with the City of Oakland to provide these crucial technology resources and stepped in to fill an important need in the community.”

Manuel, who returns to racing this week at the TYR Pro Swim Series, has been increasingly outspoken on issues of racial justice, especially during last summer’s wider reckoning over systemic inequality after the killing of George Floyd. The first Black woman from the U.S. to win an Olympic swimming individual gold medal, Manuel has been widely recognized for that work.