WASHINGTON - In today’s day and age, the internet has simply become a part of life, a necessity we rely upon and one that we tend to take for granted. In some communities, however, getting access to the internet is not so easy.
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Sports Washington, wants to change that.
Comcast joined Cornerstone Schools of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for a skating clinic at Fort Dupont Ice Arena to discuss the expansion of its Internet Essentials program to all qualified low-income members of the community.
“The real thrust of Comcast, NBC Universal's corporate social responsibility program is to level the playing field, to increase inclusiveness and exposure in the communities where our employees and customers live and work,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast. “So if you think about internet essentials, which we're in Washington to promote, that is about getting people connected to the internet who are not connected in order to level the playing field and provide them with an equivalent opportunity for success in life, particularly kids who need the internet to do their homework and you've got 25 to 50-percent of the kids in Washington don't have access to the internet at home.”
The skating clinic included several special guests as the coaches were assisted by Olympians Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureux-Morando and paralympian Rico Roman. Capitals mascot Slapshot even made an appearance for the on-ice activities.
“Being an Olympian and being an Olympic champion, it really gives you a platform and we want to use that platform to really give back and especially to kids and to kids that might not have the same opportunities or resources as others,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “Being able to work with the internet essentials program does exactly that. It's really helping to level the playing field, not just for kids, but for all low-income Americans. So if we're able to be a part of something that's really giving back and making a positive impact all over the country, sign us up to help out.”
While access to the internet and hockey may seem like a surprising combination, but the decision to use hockey to help illustrate Comcast’s announcement was no coincidence.
As the point of the Internet Essentials program is to help level the playing field for low-income Americans, using Fort Dupont hockey as a backdrop seemed like a perfect fit.
“Programs like [Fort Dupont hockey] in Washington and like Snider youth hockey in Philadelphia are designed to level the playing field for kids who might be interested in hockey,” Cohen said. “It's an expensive sport so it may not be the most natural sport that they pick up. It's not something that's offered in most public schools except up in New England.
"So to support programs like this, to expose kids to hockey and grow the interest in hockey is leveling the playing field and providing some opportunity for kids to play an incredible sport that has everything that kids like -- action, speed, hitting, scoring, teamwork. That is I think part of our overall philosophy.”
“Having kids just having the accessibility to go play whether that's hockey or whatever sport it may be,” Lamoureux-Davidson said, “We're passionate about that and the life lessons they can teach.”
Comcast is significantly expanding the eligibility for Internet Essentials to include all qualified low-income households in its service area. The program is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive and most successful broadband adoption program in America. Expansion of the program now makes an estimated 3 million additional low-income households eligible to apply.
In addition, the company announced that, since August 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 8 million low-income individuals, from 2 million households to the Internet at home.
“The internet, it's not a luxury anymore,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “It's a necessity to apply for a job, to apply for college, to do your homework. So you can't possibly expect kids, adults, seniors to succeed and reach their full potential if they don't have access to the internet or a tool to access the internet.
“When we learned about the program and really learned about the issue that it's an actual problem in America when we shouldn't be having this issue so to be able to lend our voice to giving back and for Comcast to really truly create a program that's truly making a difference -- it's reached over 8 million Americans to date -- and they just continue to expand the program and try to figure out different ways to reach more Americans.”
But just the expansion of the program was not the highlight of the day. Cohen announced at the end of Tuesday’s event that Comcast would be giving all the students from Cornerstone Schools a brand new laptop.
Here’s the moment @comcast Executive VP David Cohen announced he was giving all the students from Cornerstone Schools a brand new laptop. It’s the power of giving back.— Rob Carlin (@RobCarlinNBCS) September 10, 2019
Yep, I was fighting back the tears! pic.twitter.com/SNJtJJOM2Y
“What I think is so impactful about the laptop giveaway is you can't find the cost of those laptops on our financial statements or balance sheet,” Cohen said, “But you see in the look on the kids' eyes and the way they react that they know they've been given a gift that has the potential to transform their lives.
That's what companies should be doing. That's what part of our corporate purpose is and it's something that we're very proud of our ability to give back all in the name of trying to level the playing field.”
“To see that reaction,” Lamoureux-Morando said, “You know that you're truly making a difference in their lives and that's what really matters.”