AT&T Offers Broadband to Low-Income Consumers

by Kim Keenan on April 22, 2016

BroadbandThis week, AT&T announced the launch of a new program to address the issue that has  left many consumers without Internet service stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide: price.

Called “Access from AT&T,” the program will help bring Internet access to qualifying households at a more affordable rate.  MMTC is excited to help get the word out about this important new program and to ensure that the people who need it most find out about it first.

Programs like Access from AT&T are key to connecting every American regardless of income.  Whether the Internet is used in a job search, to access virtual library shelves, or to complete an online education, MMTC has long advocated that Internet service can change lives for the better.

In 2010, the FCC reported that the Internet “is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.” While many consumers understood the tremendous benefits that high-speed Internet could deliver, a sizable number did not. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of consumers without a home Internet connection in 2010 did not see a “major disadvantage” in being disconnected.

But today, two-thirds of those without a home connection recognize that they are missing out on something really important to thriving in an increasingly digital world.  Clearly, the nearly 300 people with whom we met last year during MMTC’s Net Equality Tour understood the value of having Internet at home, thanks to access to job searches, health information, running a home-based business, connecting with government services, or doing homework.

The Access from AT&T program will make home wireline Internet service available in qualifying households in the 21 states in AT&T’s wireline footprint. Households in the governments Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, automatically qualify for access to Internet access at 3 MBPS, 5 MBPS, or 10 MBPS, whichever is the fastest available at their address, for $5 to $10 per month.  Customers would not have to pay any installation or equipment fees.

This news is especially welcome as Congress considers implementing a cap on the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.  The Lifeline program provides a subsidy for wired and wireless telephone  service, and the FCC recently ruled to expand the program to cover broadband access as well.  Unfortunately, Congress is considering an act to reform the program by capping the fund at $1.5 billion, prohibiting the use of the subsidy for devices, and phasing out the subsidy for voice-only service for mobile.  Such a move would serve only to keep those who lag behind disconnected.  Private sector efforts like the Access from AT&T initiative will provide some relief to these marginalized and disadvantaged households.

Technology has changed a lot in the past decade, and it will continue to change our daily lives in even more striking ways over the next few years.  It is vital to make sure everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in the benefits that technology has to offer.

MMTC is committed to ensuring that students, seniors, vets – all of us – are able to more easily search for jobs, complete education courses, and connect with family and friends.    MMTC believes that Access from AT&T is a big step in the right direction to help connect the unconnected.

For more information about the program please visit www.att.com/access.

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