Reliable, affordable internet connectivity is an essential tool for education, healthcare and employment. People use the internet to complete school assignments, work, apply for jobs, research health information and stay in touch with family and friends. Requirements to work and learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic shed greater light on the digital divide that has long left millions of students and families without essential broadband connectivity. AT&T is committed to helping bridge the digital divide by supporting broadband affordability, availability and adoption. We are also investing our resources and knowledge to advance the skills people need to thrive in today’s digital world.
AT&T is in the midst of a company-wide commitment to invest $2 billion between 2021 and the end of 2023 to help bridge the digital divide. This effort combines AT&T’s low-cost broadband service offerings with ongoing community investment.
Our Goals & Progress
Invest $2 billion by the end of 2023 to help bridge the digital divide.
Progress: Launched AT&T Connected LearningSM and expanded low-cost broadband offerings
In 2021, as part of our $2 billion company-wide digital divide commitment, we introduced AT&T Connected LearningSM, a multiyear initiative investing in digital inclusion, literacy and education to help connect today’s learners with skills, resources and opportunities for success—in and out of the classroom. In 2022, we launched our 20th AT&T Connected Learning Center. These centers are placed in under-resourced neighborhoods facing barriers to connectivity.
AT&T is also participating in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a benefit on broadband service for eligible households. The ACP provides1 up to $30/month on wireless and internet service for eligible households and up to $75/month for such households on tribal lands. Coupled with our recently updated Access from AT&T program, ACP households can receive internet service at speeds of up to 100 Mbps at no monthly charge.
Provide 1 million people in need with digital resources though AT&T Connected LearningSM.
Progress: Reached more than 290,000 individuals
Through 2022, we reached more than 290,000 people through digital inclusion initiatives, such as collaborations to provide refurbished devices to low-income students and families, resources to support digital learning and literacy, and investments in programs that deploy digital navigators into communities.
Our Actions & Impacts
In 2022, AT&T’s efforts to bridge the digital divide included:
- AT&T Connected LearningSM, our initiative to invest in digital inclusion, literacy and education to help connect today’s learners with skills, resources and opportunities for success in school and in life. Through this work, we have:
- Launched 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers that provide high-speed AT&T Fiber internet, Wi-Fi and technology resources in underserved neighborhoods.
- Provided over 81,000 people with technology and computers.
- Reached nearly 106,000 people with digital literacy resources to build skills and confidence in using technology safely and responsibly.
- Reached over 78,000 students through The AchieverySM, a free digital learning platform created by AT&T.
- Invested $3 million to launch a digital navigator program and community-based IT help desk that will provide training to over 300 community members in navigator roles. Digital navigators are individuals who consistently address and support the digital inclusion process within communities. This includes supporting home connectivity, devices and digital skills.
- Expanding Access from AT&T offers to better meet the needs of eligible low-income households by providing a range of speeds at varying price points.
With oversight by the full AT&T Board of Directors, our strategy for addressing the digital divide involves collaboration across the entirety of our company—engaging business units such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Policy, External and Legislative Affairs, Network Technology and Operations, Finance, and Marketing.
AT&T Connected LearningSM
AT&T Connected LearningSM is our multiyear initiative investing in digital inclusion, literacy and education to help connect today’s learners with skills, resources and opportunities for success. We are making strides toward our goal of reaching 1 million people in need with digital resources by 2025 through the following AT&T Connected LearningSM initiatives:
Connectivity & Computers
In a digital-first world, the lack of computers and other large-screen devices puts many low-income families at a sizable disadvantage in their educational pursuits and the job market. We are collaborating with nonprofits to help more people gain access to the technology resources they need to learn and work. These efforts include:
- Connected Learning Centers: Together with our employees and local organizations, we have opened 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers that provide high-speed AT&T Fiber internet, Wi-Fi and technology resources in underserved neighborhoods. Each center is housed within local community organizations and provides students and families free access to high-speed internet and computing devices, as well as opportunities for tutoring and mentorship through our employee-driven AT&T BelievesSM volunteerism initiative. Educational content from The AchieverySM, a K–12 digital learning platform created by AT&T, the Public Library Association and other learning resources are also available to help students and families participate in virtual learning and gain digital literacy skills. In 2022, we opened centers in Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Augusta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Raleigh, San Francisco and Tupelo, and announced plans to reach 50 total centers nationwide, including at many Boys & Girls Clubs.
- Device Refurbishers: We are working with nonprofit device refurbishment partners such as Digitunity, Compudopt and Human-I-T to provide technology directly to learners who need it most. In 2022, AT&T contributed more than $10 million to support the distribution of free laptops to students and families across the country, including:
- $5.1 million to Compudopt to support the distribution of 10,000 computers to vulnerable families nationwide.
- $5 million to Human-I-T to enable the organization to distribute at least 16,000 fully subsidized computers to those in need through nonprofits across the country.
- Community Collaborations:
- In 2022, we worked with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to provide funding to support 10 computer resource rooms and laptop lending libraries with digital skills coaching to underserved parents and families in more than a dozen community-based organizations around the country. The funding allowed over 3,000 individuals to be served through 16 LISC Financial Opportunity Center partners.
- In 2022, AT&T contributed $1 million to support a digital equity initiative led by the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA), a coalition of corporations, civic and other organizations, academia and private individuals who are invested in the city of Dallas’ continued evolution as a forward‐thinking, innovative, “smart” global city. Our contribution will enable DIA to reach 10,000 community members through its new Digital Ambassador program, Connected Dallas, a 2-year campaign to promote digital inclusion and internet access in the Dallas community. The Digital Ambassador program's mission is to provide a central hub for connection to all internet-based services that improve quality of life and access to opportunity. These include the basics: accessing internet plans, low-cost devices and fundamental skills, as well as services in health, transportation, education, employment, housing and day-to-day services, such as paying bills or online grocery shopping.
Even with access to affordable broadband service, many individuals and families are still not taking advantage of connectivity because they lack the skills, knowledge or confidence to navigate the web safely and responsibly. Strong digital literacy skills, including an understanding of privacy and online safety, are crucial for overcoming the barriers faced when first participating in our digital-first world. AT&T’s digital literacy initiatives aim to help people learn to use computers and mobile devices, navigate the internet and commonly used apps, and participate safely and responsibly in today’s increasingly connected world. We are providing free digital literacy resources for parents, caregivers and families through the following:
- Education & Training: Through a collaboration with the Public Library Association, we launched a collection of digital literacy courses to help newly connected parents and caregivers build the skills and confidence they need to use technology and support their child’s online learning. These free, self-paced courses on topics like teleconference basics are available virtually at att.digitallearn.org. Together with the Public Library Association, Connected Nation and Digitunity, as well as our employee volunteers, we also offer in-person digital literacy workshops. In 2022, more than 20,000 people completed our virtual digital literacy courses. In addition, as part of $6 million in contributions, we helped bring more than 1,100 bilingual, in-person digital literacy workshops to more than 160 libraries and community centers across the country, training more than 5,000 people.
- AT&T ScreenReady®: Through AT&T ScreenReady®, we are helping parents and families make safe and positive connections on all screens. The website features tips, tools and information to help parents and caregivers set parental controls on their connected devices, navigate digital parenting issues and create the right online and entertainment experience for their families. In 2022, AT&T collaborated with the American Academy of Pediatrics to launch a new, free PhoneReady Questionnaire and a free, enhanced Family Media Plan to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions about technology use and create healthy digital habits for their families. In 2022, more than 70,000 people used these digital parenting resources.
- Digital Citizenship in Mexico City: AT&T Mexico and the Federal Education Authority in Mexico City launched a digital citizenship program for Mexico City’s 2021–2022 school curriculum. The program aimed to provide students with tools to use information and communication technologies efficiently, safely and responsibly—while leveraging the benefits and reducing the risks of the digital environment. As part of the program, approximately 2 million primary school students have been made available specialized digital citizenship resources, such as booklets and videos, integrated into their annual curriculum, covering topics such as digital identity, digital behavior for healthy interactions, digital footprint and cybersecurity.
High-quality educational tools that supplement and enrich classroom lessons can help address learning loss. We are providing students—and those who support them—with rich educational content and learning tools to supplement their education at home and get the most from their broadband connection:
- The AchieverySM: Created in collaboration with Warner Bros. Discovery, The AchieverySM is a free digital learning platform that helps connect students to a new world of digital learning through stories that spark curiosity and content that entertains and teaches. Every lesson and learning activity on The AchieverySM is developed by leading education organizations, aligned to academic standards and reviewed by education experts from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. In 2022, we made hundreds of educational videos, lessons and learning activities available to students through the new platform. We also teamed up with organizations—including All4Ed, National AfterSchool Association, Connected Nation, Digitunity and others—to help bring The AchieverySM to students in and out of school. In 2022, we reached more than 78,000 students who participated in learning with The AchieverySM.
- Digital Navigator Program: In 2022, AT&T invested $3 million to launch a digital navigator program and community-based IT help desk that will provide training to over 300 community members in navigator roles over the next two years. Digital navigators are individuals who consistently address and support the digital inclusion process within communities. This includes supporting home connectivity, devices and digital skills.
Financial and geographical barriers continue to drive the digital divide. Nearly 1 in 4 rural Americans say that broadband internet access is a major problem in their community, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. AT&T is pursuing public-private partnerships with states and localities through broadband deployment grants to extend broadband service at speeds up to and potentially exceeding 1 Gig in rural America. For example, in 2021, we announced a $39 million project with Vanderburgh County, Indiana, to build out high-speed fiber broadband to more than 20,000 households and businesses—supporting a region where about a third of the population does not have access to fixed broadband solutions. We continue to deploy fiber across our wired footprint and are investing more than $48 billion over the next 2 years in our network. We have also committed to more than double our fiber footprint by 2025 and are currently adding on average more than 350 customer fiber locations per hour across the country.
Low-Cost Broadband Programs
Continuing to provide and expand our low-cost broadband programs is essential to bridging the digital divide. We continue to help make low-cost internet service available for qualifying low-income households with our Access from AT&T program. AT&T also participates in the ACP, which provides a benefit for eligible households toward their internet or wireless service. Details include:
- Access from AT&T: Introduced in 2016, Access from AT&T is a low-cost program for home internet access in the 21 states where we offer wire-line home internet services to households who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income for California residents only, the National School Lunch Program, or those with a household income below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. In 2022, AT&T expanded program eligibility to all households that qualify for ACP and apply the benefit to AT&T Internet service. We also updated the program to include speeds up to 100 Mbps where available. To educate potential participants about Access from AT&T, we have connected with national, state and local groups that work with low-income individuals and families. These organizations include social services groups and organizations representing veterans, seniors, students, non-English speakers and others.
- ACP Participation: AT&T participates in the FCC’s ACP, established by Congress in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The ACP provides eligible American households a benefit1 of up to $30/month on fixed or mobile internet access service. Eligible households on tribal lands can receive a benefit of up to $75/month. Eligible households who qualify and enroll in the ACP and Access from AT&T can receive internet service at speeds of up to 100 Mbps and unlimited data usage at no monthly charge.
AT&T is committed to working with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure people across the country have access to high-speed internet. Our policy positions are outlined below.
- Broadband Availability: We recommend that policymakers first identify where broadband is available with geographic precision. Congress adopted and funded the Broadband DATA Act specifically for this purpose, and the FCC is working to implement the new law to create a more accurate national broadband map. The FCC unveiled an initial version of the new map in November 2022, beginning an iterative process to continually improve and refine broadband availability data by incorporating feedback from individuals and other stakeholders. This is a critical step to enable policymakers to effectively allocate funding to programs like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. NTIA plans to announce the states’ BEAD allocations by the end of June 2023, using the most up-to-date version of the FCC maps.
- Wireless Solutions: Fiber deployments should be prioritized to enable fast, scalable services. However, policymakers should also give due consideration to wireless solutions where appropriate to help close affordability and availability gaps.
- Public-Private Partnerships: We believe it takes a collaborative approach between the public and private sectors, as well as smart public policy, to continue bridging the digital divide. For example, Congress has directed substantial federal resources to support internet service deployment and address broadband access needs in areas that may lack a private sector business case for deployment.
- Private Sector Consideration: Policies developed at all levels of government need to work with the market and foster continued private sector investment and innovation by eliminating barriers to connectivity. The private sector has the expertise and a proven track record of meeting demand at the speeds—and with the service options and technologies—consumers want.
- Continued Action After the ACP: Policymakers should determine how to fund the ACP after the initial $14.2 billion appropriation is exhausted to enable the program to continue addressing broadband service affordability needs among low-income consumers. AT&T supports direct congressional appropriations to fund the ACP. Appropriations are the simplest, broadest, most equitable and most sustainable funding source to address these important needs. If appropriations are infeasible or insufficient, we recommend expanding the Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution base to assess other services and industries that benefit from broadband and broadband-enabled technologies or that compete with the telecommunications services that already support the USF.
Our Path Forward
In 2023, we will continue to reach people in need of connectivity, digital literacy and digital learning through the following initiatives:
- Together with the Public Library Association and other collaborators, we will continue to launch new digital literacy courses, resources and workshops in public libraries and community settings.
- We will bring hundreds more educational videos, lessons and learning activities in both English and Spanish to The AchieverySM and reach more students at home, in their communities and in the classroom.
- We will continue to work with Digitunity, Compudopt and Human-I-T to support the distribution of free laptops to students and families across the country.
- We will continue our support of the digital navigator program to help communities embrace low-cost broadband. We are collaborating with nonprofit organizations that will train and deploy community digital navigators and launch digital navigators in selected Connected Learning Centers.
- We will progress on our goal to reach 50 total Connected Learning Centers nationwide through mid-2024 by partnering with national organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of America and National Urban League.
- Access from AT&T
- Affordable Connectivity Program
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
- AT&T BelievesSM
- AT&T Digital Divide website
- AT&T Connected LearningSM
- AT&T Connected Learning courses
- AT&T ScreenReady®
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Broadband DATA Act
- Connected Nation
- Dallas Innovation Alliance
- Family Media Plan
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation
- National AfterSchool Association
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program
- National Urban League
- New ‘Access from AT&T’ Plan + New Federal Benefit = Free Internet
- PhoneReady Questionnaire
- Public Library Association
- The AchieverySM
- The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Universal Service Fund
- Warner Bros. Discovery
- Eligibility determined by the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier), managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company. For more information on eligibility criteria for the ACP, visit acpbenefit.org.
Last Updated: 10/10/2023
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