Money Tree

AT&T said today that it will increase its investment in what some people in the broadband industry have come to think of as the three “A’s”: affordability, adoption, and availability/access. The $3 billion additional investment will be spread across the next six years.

AT&T is positioning the three types of investment as an initiative aimed at bridging the digital divide.

A company spokesperson declined to provide a breakdown between the three types of investment, citing a quiet period. But she did tell us that the money will go toward “discounts on connectivity service plans for qualifying households, contributions to charitable organizations that execute digital learning and literacy programs, network infrastructure builds, and discounted service offers to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities.”

The additional $3 billion is in addition to $2 billion that the company previously committed to spend for that purpose over a three-year period beginning in 2021. That investment was directed toward adoption and affordability programs only.

AT&T Investment Plans

Although we don’t know how much AT&T plans to up its network investment forecast, it’s not surprising to see that the company plans to do so. Company executives have said that they see opportunities to expand fiber broadband availability beyond the 30 million locations that the company committed to reaching by 2025.

Areas where there might not have been a business case for deployment might be more attractive if government funding programs such as the $42.5 billion BEAD program will cover some of the costs. And in announcing the new $3 billion digital divide investment, AT&T noted that “We’re looking forward to taking part in BEAD funding opportunities and helping to close the country’s remaining broadband gap.”

The adoption programs in which AT&T plans to invest are a continuation of what was announced in 2021. They include establishing more Connected Learning Centers (CLCs) where people can go to use a computer and internet connection.

AT&T currently has 37 CLCs and expects to have 50 by this summer, the company spokesperson told Telecompetitor in response to questions from us. The company’s investment in adoption programs also will include internet access and digital literacy resources for rural communities and tribal lands, the spokesperson said.

As for AT&T’s investment in affordability, the spokesperson told us that the company will be offering discounted service plans from AT&T Prepaid, Cricket and “other, forthcoming services.”

In the announcement of the $3 billion investment, the company also noted that it plans to continue its $30 Access from AT&T service for low-income households. That service includes Wi-Fi at no additional charge and doesn’t include deposit fees. It has been free to customers who qualify for the $30-a-month benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program, but that program is set to expire soon unless Congress approves additional funding for it.

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