School kids in class using a digital tablet

AT&T aims to increase access to educational and digital literacy tools by opening the first of more than 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers across the U.S.

These AT&T Learning Centers will be in facilities operated by local community organizations and will provide underserved students and families with free access to the internet, computers, and educational resources. The first centers are planned for Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Miami and San Francisco.

Plans for the learning centers were announced in April as part of the company’s three-year $2 billion commitment to bridge the digital divide through efforts that promote broadband affordability, accessibility and adoption.

Also participating in the learning centers are Dell Technologies, which will provide computing equipment; Khan Academy and the Public Library Association, which will provide educational content; and Overland-Tandberg, which will lead onsite equipment configuration.

According to a Morning Consult survey, 35% of parents and 39% of teachers said children had to seek internet connectivity somewhere outside the home – including community centers, libraries and friends or family member’s homes over the last year. The research also showed that 73% of parents and 70% of teachers anticipate that the traditional classroom learning environment will rely more heavily on technology in the future.

“The stakes for closing the digital divide are incredibly high, and it is imperative that we remove barriers to opportunity for children and families,” said Jeff McElfresh, chief executive officer, AT&T Communications, in a prepared statement about the AT&T Connected Learning Centers. “Education plays a vital role in the long-term success of our society, and we are committed to investing in the educational and connectivity needs of underserved communities, while also expanding access to low-cost broadband services.”

Other telecom providers are also seeking to close the gap between those with broadband access and those without. Earlier this year, Comcast pledged $1 billion to help close the digital divide.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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