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By Julianne Pepitone

Just 15 years ago, a computer with Internet access was a “nice to have,” not a requirement. But today, schoolchildren and adults alike who don’t have connectivity are faced with reduced opportunity to learn, find work and be on an even playing field.

To help bridge this gap, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has connected eight million low-income Americans to the Internet. The program is supported in part by Olympic ice hockey gold medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who were recently named ambassadors and spokespeople for the Comcast’s corporate values initiatives.

The Lamoureux twins, who are also Know Your Value contributors and were pivotal in the U.S. Women’s Hockey team taking gold last year in the PyeongChang games, recently joined Comcast executives for a multi-city Internet Essentials tour. They visited Martin Luther King, Jr. K-8 School and St. Mary’s Center for Women & Children, both in Dorchester, Massachusetts, as well as the housing development Villa Victoria in Boston.

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At all three stops on the tour, Comcast handed out free laptop computers and six months of free access to the Internet to the population—drawing cheers and tears from the audience.

Jocelyne said the Comcast partnership and other efforts opened her eyes to “the digital divide—the number of people who go without the Internet, even when broadband is built out to reach their homes.”

“It’s not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity….the people who need it the most are the ones who don’t have it,” she added.

According to the FCC’s most recent Broadband Progress Report, even in areas with broadband connectivity, 100 million Americans are not subscribed. That digital divide makes it difficult for those without access to have opportunities in our highly connected world, Monique said.

“Our mom, when we were in sports and we had to compete against each other—she was in the dilemma of ‘Which twin do I cheer for?,’” Monique said. “It was, ‘I’ll cheer for the one who’s behind, to level the playing field.’ Those are lessons we take into our foundation and that we’re trying to live by.”

That foundation was top of mind for the twins during their Internet Essentials tour. In each location, the Lamoureux twins heard from people about their challenges with the digital divide—including an eighth grader who shared that her family has no computer, so she must visit the library to write her school assignments.

“It’s really about having access to the internet, a tool to utilize the internet, and the digital literacy skills to efficiently get work done. [That’s] what it takes to be successful in this day and age, and for kids to be successful in school. Why should someone else’s child have less than?” Jocelyne said.

Monique said the twins were particularly struck by the challenges of students at “under-resourced schools [who] don’t have the same opportunities that other kids have. It’s just really opened our eyes.”

“We know we can’t solve all of these things….on our own,” Jocelyne added. “But if we can raise awareness in lending our voice to the Internet Essentials program and be that voice for change—and inspire someone else to do the same—then I think we’re happy with what we’re doing with our platform.”