AT&T pledges 3-year $2bn fund to bridge the digital divide

AT&T pledges 3-year $2bn investment to bridge the digital divide

15 April 2021 | Natalie Bannerman

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AT&T has announced a $2 billion investment over three years in an attempt to bridge the digital divide in the US.

This new commitment combines AT&T's low-cost broadband service offerings with community investment, building on the company's previous $1 billion contribution to help the country’s most vulnerable communities.

"We believe that broadband connectivity is essential for all Americans. Our broadband networks rose to the challenge of the pandemic in part due to policies that promoted private sector investment in multiple technologies and networks,” said John Stankey (pictured), CEO of AT&T.

“AT&T is investing in and expanding the reach of our broadband networks while also advocating for effective and sustainable public policies that help close this country's digital divide."

The company will achieve this via three initiatives, the first is in the area of education. AT&T continues to offer discounted wireless solutions to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. The company has increased its support over the last year to 17 million students, predominately children of colour in low-income and rural households.

"We applaud AT&T's recent efforts to ensure that all people – and especially historically unserved and underserved communities — can access affordable, reliable broadband internet," said Marc Morial, president & CEO of the National Urban League. 

Another program funded by AT&T makes the internet more affordable for customers by providing qualifying households with wireline internet service at $10 or less per month. There is also Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) in which eligible customers will be able to temporarily reduce their monthly broadband costs by taking advantage of the Federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) subsidy and can be applied to eligible home internet services and wireless services across the AT&T footprint.

"We tip our hat to Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for her leadership in making the Emergency Broadband Benefit available to more than 30 million households," added Stankey.

"The EBB is a great first step in addressing affordability in the short term. We continue to encourage Congress to work on more permanent solutions with sustainable funding so that all Americans can have access to affordable broadband."

In addition, A&T joined close to 50 advocacy organizations, companies, and non-profit groups developing the guiding framework for Congress and the Biden Administration as it discussed specifics the recently announced $2 trillion infrastructure plan entitled the American Jobs Plan.

"As we work to remedy existing gaps in internet access and overcome the challenges associated with connecting every single American to broadband service, we celebrate the efforts of AT&T and others working hard to help close the digital divide,” continued Linda Ng, national president of OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates.

Additionally, through its AT&T Connected Learning program AT&T is working to help connect today's learners with the skills, resources, and opportunities for success in school and in life.

Also, in collaboration with WarnerMedia, the company is also developing a digital learning platform that will deliver high quality educational content and curriculum everywhere today's connected students learn

“I applaud AT&T's efforts to bridge the connectivity gap with incremental investments and subscriber subsidies, as well as no-cost educational content through its WarnerMedia division,” added Will Townsend, senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

In collaboration with its employees and local organizations, the company is also launching 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers in 2021 located in traditionally underserved neighbourhoods where residents face barriers to connectivity. 

Lastly with Public Library Association, AT&T will offer a specially curated collection of digital literacy courses to help parents and families build the skills and confidence they need to help their children through distance learning.