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Digital Access for New Americans


Comcast Lift Zone program awards IIMN WiFi access, laptops and privacy pods to increase digital access

September 21, 2023 | Immigrants and refugees bring with them a wealth of culture, potential, talent and ambition when they arrive in Minnesota. But digital barriers can prevent them from accessing education or employment opportunities, denying them prominence in today’s digital climate.

The International Institute of Minnesota’s (IIMN) partnership with Comcast’s Project UP aims to change that by offering resources that help clients move their lives forward.

As a new Comcast Lift Zone, IIMN now offers one more tool to provide critically needed digital resources to our clients.

Among the offerings announced this week:

  • free broadband access onsite for Institute students and clients
  • 250 new laptops for newly arrived refugees and to support student access
  • two Lift Zone privacy pods

The privacy pods allow students a space to conduct job interviews, participate in digital tutoring sessions or access other services that require a high-speed connection and privacy not available in other public locations.

“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 Jane Graupman, Executive Director at the International Institute of Minnesota.

“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,” she said during a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Broderick Johnson, Comcast NBC Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Digital Equity.

IIMN’s History with Comcast

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned the importance of digital access. It has become a top priority of our work.

Last year, IIMN opened our renovated, expanded building that included six new classrooms and hands-on job training labs. While we were operating classes remotely, Comcast provided IIMN with funding and donated laptops. Through its support to the Internet Essentials program, Comcast helped make our classes and services accessible for those with digital barriers at home.

This year, Comcast reinvested in our refugee services programs providing funding to support sign up assistance for the Americans Connectivity Program and Internet Essentials to every refugee household we resettled, providing their families with free high-speed broadband in their homes. Over 300 newly arrived refugees benefited from this support this year.