Placing Connectivity at the Top of This Year’s Back-to-School List

Mylayna Albright, AVP Corporate Social Responsibility
August 23, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability

Placing Connectivity at the Top of This Year’s Back-to-School List

Every August and September, that back-to-school feeling never fails to permeate the air and get under my skin. Yet somehow this year feels even more promising than normal.

As students across the country head back to school, there’s a feeling of renewed momentum around an issue we’ve long confronted – connecting more people to the internet.

That’s no accident. Not only is there a broad, bipartisan consensus about the imperative for public and private sector investment, but there has also been real action taken in three critical areas – with tangible results.

By working together to address barriers to internet access, affordability and adoption, our students can stock up on more than just pens and paper – we are leveling the digital playing field.

Here’s a look at the progress we’ve made so far:

Access – With nearly 7 in 10 teachers assigning homework online, at-home internet access is vital to the success of students. We’re thrilled with the progress we’ve made to bring fiber infrastructure to more communities so school-aged children can thrive.

  • And through exciting public-private partnerships, we are connecting even more people as American Rescue Plan funds are being put into action across the country – like the Louisiana project my colleague Sonia recently wrote about.

But access is only one component – true digital equity is also about being able to afford internet service and knowing how to use it.

Affordability – In a time of record inflation, we cannot afford to leave America’s students without the benefits connectivity can bring.

  • When nothing else feels affordable, we’re whittling down the cost of home internet by combining a plan from our low-cost Access from AT&T program1 with federal benefits from the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
  • Applying the $30 federal benefit to our $30 Access2 plan means eligible households can get home internet for free3 each month.

Working together, the public and private sectors can create simple, straightforward solutions like this to galvanize change in the life of a student.

Adoption – With a focus on K-12 education in under-resourced markets, my role mobilizing AT&T’s charitable giving programs has brought me face to face with the nuances of connecting people to the internet.

For our students to capitalize on the many benefits of the internet, broadband adoption strategies – including affordable access to equipment and increasing digital literacy – are vital.

I recently had the privilege of participating in a computer distribution event with United Way in Dallas. Together with Compudopt and volunteers from AT&T, we distributed almost 300 free laptops at Kimball High School – even the 104-degree heat didn’t keep people away! And we’ll continue to do these events to keep narrowing the digital divide.

We are also working to increase adoption through digital literacy and digital learning initiatives to help engage students, parents, and caregivers in safe and effective online learning.

  • We just announced we’re expanding our work with the Public Library Association to bring bilingual, in-person digital literacy workshops to more than 400 libraries and community centers across the country.
  • We’ve opened a new Connected Learning Center this summer, providing students with free internet access and educational tools to be top of the class.
  • Together with the American Academy of Pediatrics, we launched free new tools to encourage safe and responsible internet, media, and technology use for families. These tools include the Phone Ready Questionnaire to help parents determine if their child is ready for a cell phone of their own.
  • Through AT&T ScreenReady®, we continue to provide tips, tools and resources, developed in collaboration with experts, for parents and caregivers to manage their family’s online experience, practice healthy digital habits and participate safely and responsibly in today’s connected world.
  • We continue to provide engaging educational content to support student learning through The Achievery, our free education platform developed in collaboration with WarnerMedia Discovery. This includes a new video series on digital citizenship skills that we did in collaboration with Common Sense Media and the Public Library Association.

The results are clear. By working together, we are making progress. Let’s build on this momentum by increasing awareness around and developing innovative solutions to address gaps in access, adoption, and affordability.

Together, we can equip this generation of learners with the digital tools they need to become the next generation of leaders.

1 Available in the 21 states where AT&T offers wireline home internet services.

2 Plus taxes. Terms, conditions, and restrictions apply. Limited availability in select areas.

3 Plans up to 100Mbps. Limited availability in select areas. Terms, conditions, and restrictions apply. Free internet subject to continued participation in the ACP and application of the ACP benefit to Access from AT&T plans.