As published in the editorial section of the Detroit News on Sunday, Sept. 25 2022
Detroit has always embraced the latest innovations, capitalizing on one of the most transformative inventions of the 20th century to become the center of the automotive industry. To build on this rich history, we must once again embrace one of the latest technologies transforming our world: internet connectivity.
Right now our kids’ learning environments are increasingly centered around digital devices and internet access. Teachers are finding new ways to incorporate online educational resources. But while classrooms have evolved in this digital age, an estimated 25% of Detroit residents are still without home internet access.
There is a feeling of momentum around overcoming barriers to connect students and their families to the internet. And to overcome these barriers, we first need to recognize them. Affordability is a huge factor in preventing households from getting internet access as families have to juggle paying for school supplies, groceries, gas and whatever else they might need at a time when prices continue to rise.
Households struggling to pay for internet need to know about the resources available to them to make internet affordable when it seems like nothing else is. One of these resources is a new government program lowering the cost of home internet.
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Affordable Connectivity Program to make internet service more affordable. Eligible households can enroll to receive up to $30 per month, or $75 on tribal lands, on their internet service. And now, eligible Detroit households can combine this benefit with one of our low-cost access to get free home internet.
We also need to make sure our neighbors have access to connectivity. We’ve been hard at work to expand access, having invested nearly $1.4 billion in our wireless and wireline networks in Michigan from 2019-2021, including nearly $600 million in Metro Detroit.
To further expand access, the federal government has devoted billions of dollars to increase connectivity across the country. As we eagerly wait for these funds to be deployed, we have to give our residents the opportunity to engage with digital resources and internet that can connect them to the surrounding world.
That urgent need for accessible connection and digital resources is why AT&T opened a Connected Learning Center in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood within the city. The center, housed inside Jefferson East Inc.’s Neighborhood Resource Hub, gives Detroit students and families a place to develop their digital skills and participate in our digital world — at no cost to the students or their families.
Working with community organizations like Jefferson East Inc., provides a tangible impact for students and families across Detroit by giving resources to the under resourced and opening doors to new opportunities.
We have embraced innovation before, and we can do it again to ensure this city is set to thrive for generations to come.
David Lewis is president of AT&T Michigan.