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Comcast announced Wednesday that it plans to invest $1 billion over the next decade to connect more low-income Americans to broadband internet.

Comcast said the $1 billion commitment will include investments in its ongoing “Lift Zone” initiative providing WiFi-connected community centers with free internet to help low-income students take part in distance learning.

Comcast said that that it has connected 10 million people in America to the internet over the past decade.

“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across the country,” said Dave Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable. “Together, we have been able to connect millions of people to the power of the Internet at home, and to the endless opportunity, education, growth, and discovery it provides.

In 2021, Comcast estimates students will be able to complete more than 25 million hours of remote learning lessons to further address the “homework gap” at “Lift Zone” locations that have already opened or will open. Last January Comcast announced plans to equip eight different locations in Pittsburgh with WiFi connected “Lift Zones” in the first few months of this year.

In addition, the company had been working with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the McKeesport Area School District and Ambridge Area School District to provide low-income student households with high-speed broadband service for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

“We have now seen more than ever the importance of internet connectivity for young people,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “Closing the digital divide is a top priority in Pittsburgh and across the nation.”

The Internet Essentials program includes the option to buy a heavily subsidized, low-cost internet-ready computer and low-cost, high speed internet service for $9.95 a month. Comcast also continues to offer 60 days of free Internet service to low-income customers who sign up before June 30, 2021.

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or pguggenheimer@triblive.com.

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