Closing The Digital Divide Through Affordability

Jeff Luong, President, AT&T Broadband Access and Adoption Initiative
May 9, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability

Closing The Digital Divide Through Affordability

There’s a lot of focus on the need to build broadband networks in order to bridge the digital divide and get high-speed internet to all Americans.

With good reason. According to the FCC, in 2021, there were 14.5 million Americans without access to broadband.

But there’s another reason why many Americans can’t get broadband. They simply can’t afford it.

2021 survey found that people who have lower incomes are less likely to have home broadband service than people with higher incomes. This amounts to 57% of adults living in households with annual incomes less than $30,000 a year having broadband at home, compared to 92% in households with incomes of $75,000 a year or more. This disparity remains – despite the fact that in 2021, the price of the most popular tier of broadband service dropped by 7.5%.

Fortunately, there is relief available through the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP offers eligible households a $30 per month benefit ($75 on tribal lands) to reduce the price of their broadband service. AT&T and other internet providers are working with the government to make this program available.

And it’s working. President Biden announced today that 11.5 million households are enrolled for ACP benefits. I was fortunate to attend a ceremony at the White House with other industry leaders to mark the moment and to underscore our collective commitment to connecting all Americans.

Providing affordable broadband solutions is nothing new at AT&T. Our Access from AT&T program provides low-cost broadband to qualifying households. And our newest $30 Access from AT&T plan has no data caps and customers can experience fast symmetric internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps1. In fact, Access from AT&T is free2 for customers who participate in the ACP and choose to apply their ACP benefit to their Access from AT&T service.

Why is this so important?

Research has consistently found that Americans who don’t have broadband face several disadvantages, including finding jobs, gaining access to government services and researching health care information. High-speed internet is a necessity for families. It’s so critical to everyday life. According to a recent survey that AT&T commissioned with Recon Analytics, 71% of respondents said they wouldn’t move somewhere where internet wasn’t available.

Broadband is a critical part of life in the 2020’s. More jobs are expected to be remote or hybrid, requiring reliable broadband to be successful. In healthcare, broadband expands access by giving patients the ability to see their doctors through telemedicine. Broadband access also unlocks the tools students need to succeed and create greater opportunity to new ways of absorbing knowledge that aren’t always feasible for in-person settings.

What about areas where broadband is not available?

In addition to addressing affordability, there are also enormous opportunities available for public-private partnerships to build new broadband networks to connect more Americans in hard to serve areas.

Both the  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan provide funds for states, territories and tribes to use for capital projects like developing high-speed broadband to unserved and underserved locations. Recently, we won a contract with Oldham County, Kentucky to deploy high-speed fiber broadband to more than 20,000 households and businesses in the county. This is similar to another contract we won in Vanderburgh County, Indiana last year. AT&T is proud to work with local governments to bring broadband to these rural communities.

Bridging the digital divide through focusing on affordability as well as expanding access gives people the best chance at participating in the American dream. It’s a job creator, a path to learning and an avenue to advancement. As the digital divide closes for more families, all Americans benefit from their increased economic and social engagement.

1 Plus taxes. Terms, conditions & restr’s apply. Ltd. avail/areas.

2 Free w/Internet plans 786k-100M. Ltd. avail/areas. Terms, conditions, & restr’s apply.