AT&T said today that it will invest over $2 billion over the next three years to help bridge the digital divide.
The investment includes several initiatives, some of which are new and some of which are a continuation of existing programs. The company did not provide a breakdown of spending by initiative.
“We believe that broadband connectivity is essential for all Americans,” said John Stankey, CEO, AT&T in a press release. “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. 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.”
AT&T Digital Divide Initiatives
AT&T digital divide initiatives include:
- Discounted wireless offerings to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities to support a 1:1 learning model.
- Access from AT&T, the discounted broadband service for low-income households that the company initially launched as a condition of approval of its acquisition of DirecTV, but which according to today’s press release is now a “voluntary offer.” The current price for the service is $10 or less per month. The company noted that it continues to waive data overages for these customers and that it will continue expanded eligibility to qualifying households and those participating in the National School Lunch and Head Start programs.
- The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program is a federal program recently established in response to the increased need for broadband connectivity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The program pays up to $50 a month toward broadband costs for qualifying low-income households, and up to $75 a month on tribal lands. AT&T notes that the EBB can be applied toward internet services such as Access from AT&T or ATT Internet or toward eligible postpaid or prepaid wireless plans.
- AT&T Connected Learning includes a digital learning platform that the company is developing with its WarnerMedia unit to provide educational content for classrooms, homes and community locations.
- 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers will launch this year in “traditionally underserved neighborhoods where residents face barriers to connectivity.” The learning centers will have high-speed AT&T Fiber Internet and Wi-Fi, as well as access to WarnerMedia content. In addition, the carrier said it will “ensure the centers have the resources for devices like laptops and tablets.” Students using the centers also will have the opportunity to be mentored and tutored through AT&T’s “employee-driven AT&T Believes volunteerism initiative.”
Regarding the EBB program, AT&T apparently doesn’t expect the money it receives through the EBB program to cover the company’s full costs of delivering the service. Hence, the company seems to be including the uncovered portion of those costs as part of its $2 billion digital divide investment.