I’m honored to be part of a state with a heritage of collaboration and embracing advanced technology to connect communities and bring people together.
And, with so much focus on bridging the digital divide, I’m thrilled to be working with our North Carolina neighbors at Corning. Not only is Corning the largest manufacturer of fiber optic cable in the U.S., with an incredible facility in Hickory, but earlier this spring we joined forces to announce a new training program focused on equipping thousands of technicians and network specialists across the industry to manage the growing fiber broadband network.
At AT&T, we believe in looking to the future while connecting people today. In fact, AT&T has pledged $2 billion from 2021 to 2023 to help bridge the digital divide through low-cost broadband offerings and charitable contributions. We’re also participating in federal and state programs and forming public-private partnerships with local governments to equitably expand broadband access to underserved areas.
Connecting the unconnected requires reliable fiber, a “future-proof” technology that can transform education, business and healthcare. Fiber offers consumers and businesses multi-gig speeds and a superior upgradeable capacity to handle soaring demand for high-quality bandwidth well into the future. AT&T is investing in 5G and fiber at historic levels. AT&T’s capital investment for 2021 totaled $21.6 billion, with much of it dedicated to fiber and 5G.
But to bring connectivity to more households, highly skilled workers are needed to build, engineer and maintain the networks.
I recently had the opportunity to observe the inaugural class in the training program developed by AT&T and Corning. Designed for entry-level professionals, the curriculum includes the basics of fiber and optical cable including network fundamentals, safety, infrastructure, and fiber theory; different types of cable; tutorials on splicing, system builds, hardware and connectivity; and, finally, testing and troubleshooting. A video from the fiber optic training course can viewed here.
“The hands-on training will be critical to fill much needed roles with service providers, network deployers, and construction and engineering firms as the industry expects 850,000 new jobs will be needed over the next five years to meet broadband demand,” said Mike Bell, Senior VP for Optical Communications at Corning Incorporated. The program aims to train 50,000 American workers over the next five years.
Both AT&T and Corning will work with local community organizations to recruit trainees from a variety of diverse backgrounds and geographic locations and work with community colleges and technical schools on a “train the trainer” program. This program will also expand the human capital available to network builders. Upon completion of the program, trainees will be ready to fill roles at carriers, construction firms and broadband companies.
While much work has already been done in bridging the digital divide, much hard work remains to bring connectivity to all.
Our goal is to create a pipeline of people with the skills and knowledge to bring advanced broadband to all communities. I’m proud North Carolina is in the forefront of these efforts.