Shutting down the digital divide

That’s where stu­dents such as Dan McKenna come in. The third-​​year envi­ron­mental studies major is part of the first group of North­eastern stu­dents to teach a com­mu­nity com­puter skills class through a part­ner­ship with Comcast.

On Tuesday morning in Blackman Audi­to­rium, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and Com­cast cel­e­brated that part­ner­ship at a kickoff event for the third year of Comcast’s Internet Essen­tials pro­gram, the nation’s largest and most com­pre­hen­sive broad­band adop­tion ini­tia­tive for low-​​income families.

McKenna is working on co-​​op with Northeastern’s Center for Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, where he and more than two dozen other stu­dents were trained to assist res­i­dents in Boston’s Rox­bury neigh­bor­hood with learning to set up email accounts, build their resumes, and report prob­lems through the city’s website.

More than 200 Boston Public School stu­dents and teachers attended the kickoff event, as well as Com­cast rep­re­sen­ta­tives, mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity, and former New Eng­land Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown.

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has a long-​​standing com­mit­ment to civic and com­mu­nity engage­ment, which is sup­ported by the Center for Com­mu­nity. “Myself and all the other stu­dents involved were excited to be a part of the pro­gram,” McKenna told the crowd.

In wel­come remarks, John Tobin, Northeastern’s vice pres­i­dent of city and com­mu­nity affairs, expressed the university’s excite­ment to be working with Com­cast. The part­ner­ship will include a public ser­vice announce­ment cam­paign to raise aware­ness about the dig­ital divide. One of the PSAs, devel­oped at North­eastern, pre­miered at the event.

“Access to the Internet is very simply access to the future—to your future,” Tobin said. He added that a person’s income shouldn’t be “a road block to the infor­ma­tion superhighway.”

Since Internet Essen­tials launched in 2011, about 250,000 fam­i­lies across the country have pur­chased a broad­band con­nec­tion at home, including more than 6,000 fam­i­lies in Mass­a­chu­setts. The pro­gram offers low-​​cost broad­band ser­vice and gives fam­i­lies the option of buying Internet-​​ready com­puters at a reduced rate.

Brown, a three-​​time Super Bowl cham­pion over his Patriots career from 1993 to 2007, served as the event’s spe­cial guest speaker. He urged the stu­dents from Tim­ilty Middle School in Rox­bury and the Curley K-​​8 School in Jamaica Plain to take advan­tage of this oppor­tu­nity to get more access to information.

“I’m so thankful for Com­cast, North­eastern, and all their part­ners for giving each and every one of you the oppor­tu­nity to get some­thing that seems so simple, and that’s infor­ma­tion,” Brown said.. “You can never have too much information.”