New Americans get internet lift at IIMN

New Lift Zone offers privacy pods, broadband and laptops

Thanks to a Lift Zone, new immigrants will be able to attend virtual job interviews and telehealth appointments at the International Institute of Minnesota (1694 Como Ave.).
Part of Comcast’s Project UP, the new space includes two Lift Zone privacy pods. There’s free broadband access onsite for institute students and clients. Plus, Comcast provided 250 new laptops for newly arrived refugees that will support students.
  “We’re here to talk about digital equity,” observed International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) Executive Director Jane Graupman during a ribbon-cutting on Sept. 21, 2023.
“As a mayor, there are all these things you want for a community. That’s where good partners come in,” stated Mayor Melvin Carter. He praised Comcast as a private sector business that “doesn’t just do business but invests in our community.”
The mayor also pointed to the necessity of good internet for education, jobs and more. “Our relationship with technology has changed,” he observed. “The internet is as important as food these days.”
“We’ve been at this a long time trying to close the digital divide,” remarked Broderick Johnson, Comcast NBC Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Digital Equity. His wife graduated from Washburn High School in Minneapolis, and his 92-year-old mother-in-law still resides in Edina, Minn. 
Instead of saying, “put that device down,” it’s time to show children how to use it more effectively, he encouraged. “That’s what happens here,” he said as he looked around the new Lift Zone at IIMN. It is one of 115 in Minnesota and 1,250 in the United States. He referenced the Affordable Connectivity Program that provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. The federal government set aside $14 billion for the program.  
“We got to work hard to get another 30 million households connected to the internet,” said Johnson. He added, “Having access to the internet is not enough. We have to also make sure they have devices.”   
Comcast’s Lift Zones program provides free WiFi, powered by Comcast Business, to enable students, seniors, families, and community members to get online and fully participate in the digital economy. The Lift Zones are part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to reach millions of people with the tools, resources, and skills needed to succeed in a digital world.
“The tasks of starting a new life in a new country can be overwhelming for refugees and immigrants when they arrive. Digital literacy and lack of reliable internet access can get in the way of applying for work, participating in classes or accessing community services,” said Graupman. “Thanks to Comcast and this Lift Zone partnership, we can make this time a little easier for new Americans who contribute so much to our community.”
IIMN offers a variety of training programs, including several in the health field. Through those, 3,000 people have been employed, and, of that, 700 are two- and four-year registered nurses. “New Americans have really changed the landscape in St. Paul and our state because of the important services they provide,” said Graupman.
Last year, IIMN opened a renovated, expanded building that included six new classrooms and hands-on job training labs. While they were operating classes remotely, Comcast provided IIMN with funding and donated laptops.
This year, Comcast reinvested in the IIMN refugee services programs providing funding to support sign up assistance for the Affordable Connectivity Program and Internet Essentials to every refugee household IIMN resettled, providing their families with free high-speed broadband in their homes. Over 300 newly arrived refugees benefited from this support this year.


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