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Land O’Lakes, a US-based dairy co-op (producing goods such as butter and coffee creamer), began offering free Wi-Fi access to consumers living in rural areas, where it can be difficult to secure an internet connection. The move was prompted by the pandemic, which has forced consumers to conduct even more of their essential tasks online. In May, the company kicked off a six-week trial to let locals use Wi-Fi from the parking lots of over 170 Land O’Lakes locations – factories, retailers and more – in 14 states. Each location has set aside part of the parking lot for wi-fi users, who are encouraged to stay in their cars while going online (to maintain social distancing). The move is part of Land O’Lakes’ wider American Connection Project, and the co-op is encouraging other brands to provide rural hotspots as well.
Having a reliable internet connection is about so much more than keeping up with Netflix shows or Insta feeds. It isn’t a privilege. It is a basic human need and right because today, it’s synonymous with our need for critical information (notably, essential COVID-19 health guidelines).
Yet as vital as Wi-Fi is, and for all the advancements we’re making when it comes to connectivity (5G! Even 6G!), nearly 1 in 2 consumers globally have zero internet access...an issue that has only been augmented by COVID-19 forcing many sources for free Wi-Fi (cafes, libraries, etc.) to close their doors.
Now, obviously, it’s not a butter brand’s job to tackle the digital inclusion issue. A human need as paramount as this should be secured by governments. However, Land O’Lakes took stock of its vast resources – its factories, stores and offices set up all over rural America – and saw how they could become a tool for supplying Wi-Fi and addressing this problem. Some other brands taking on almost governmental duties? Airbnb used its listings to house 100,000 first responders, AMEX and its 40 corporate partners are providing small businesses with essential resources, while Basecamp used its power as a popular remote work software tool to make life more difficult for employee surveillance vendors.
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