Every age, race, income level, gender and geographic location online. That was the goal of an event held today by the AT&T Policy Forum, in partnership with USTelecom. Kicked off by a fireside chat between Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications & National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator, and Jonathan Spalter, President & CEO of USTelecom, the event underscored NTIA’s commitment to capitalizing on the opportunity to fully and finally close the digital divide with the biggest federal internet investment in our nation’s history, set forth by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Joe Biden last November. “This is our generation’s moment to build out the next infrastructure for the 21st century,” as Davidson put it. The discussion also included the importance of the soon to be released broadband maps, how affordability and adoption impact success and the value of working together in this “all-hands-on-deck moment.”
“We’ve been given a modest mission: connect everyone in America with high-speed, affordable, reliable broadband. But we look at it as more than just access; it doesn’t help if we get a connection to a family’s home, and they can’t afford it or don’t know how to use it. We’ll measure success by meaningful broadband adoption.” – Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications & NTIA Administrator
Following the fireside chat, our President of Broadband Access & Adoption Initiative joined a panel of broadband providers and policymakers hosted by Politico’s technology reporter John Handel, and shared their perspectives on opportunities to connect all communities.
- Cheryl Musgrave, Commissioner of Vanderburgh County, IN, voiced excitement about AT&T working with her county to bring high-speed fiber broadband to every single property in the county (the county is investing $10 million, and AT&T is investing $30 million).
“Giving the maximum possible internet service to our entire county is going to change our position competitively in terms of business; it’s also going to allow families to stay in homes that they would have had to leave due to not having internet service; and it’s allowing us to compete with the entire world.” Cheryl Musgrave, Commissioner of Vanderburgh County, IN
- Jeff Luong, President of AT&T’s Broadband Access & Adoption Initiative, underscored the opportunity to take advantage of public-private partnerships to close the remaining connectivity gaps. AT&T is currently pushing to more than double its fiber footprint to reach 30 million total customer locations by the end of 2025—but even this massive investment is not enough to reach all of our nation’s hardest-to-serve communities. The BEAD Program funds can push America across the universal-broadband finish line.
- Veneeth Iyengar, Executive Director of Connect LA, weighed in, saying, “No greater infrastructure project exists that’s going to impact our communities more from a digital equity perspective than this [BEAD] program.” He also highlighted successful partnerships that Louisiana has struck with community colleges and private players to make real progress toward closing the state’s digital divide.
We are optimistic about the NTIA’s direction with its monumental task of coordinating the disbursement of billions of dollars for broadband. We encourage all public officials to minimize regulatory burdens so providers can move quickly and work with you to connect all communities.
“One certainty that we all have is that these communities that don’t have broadband now should not wait much longer to get connectivity to every home…Speed is of the essence, because the need is so great.” – Jeff Luong, President of AT&T’s Broadband Access & Adoption Initiative
We share the “energy” and “excitement” that Davidson noted across the country to achieve internet for all, and we’re ready to join hands with communities nationwide to make it happen. No grandmother, no middle schooler, no busboy, no businesswoman, no farmer left behind. We’re excited to work together to achieve #InternetforAll.
To hear the whole conversation, check out the video below.