Reflecting on 2020 and serving our communities

Denis P. Dunn
December 28, 2020
Broadband Access and Affordability

Reflecting on 2020 and serving our communities

What are the qualities that define a community? Unity, commitment, and adaptability – all values, when woven together, describe the values our teams work hard to uphold, in and outside the company.

As 2020 comes to an end, we remain steadfast in our commitment to be there for friends, families, coworkers and neighbors. Whether it’s addressing social and economic barriers or empowering those particularly affected by the pandemic, we continue to collaborate with civic and non-profit organizations to provide our communities with the resources they need.

When it comes to racial inequality, it cannot be solved overnight. To do our part, we continue to actively reevaluate how to make a positive impact. Our $10 million commitment to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities is just one of the many ways we are helping to combat long-standing social inequities.

While the homework gap has existed for decades, COVID-19 has brought national awareness to the problem. Although America’s networks have performed well during the pandemic, many rural and low-income families don’t have the internet access they need to work and learn. We believe in the equality of education and connection is at our core. And now that the classroom has gone digital, we are refocusing our efforts to expand student connectivity.

It is vital we continue to support each other through the COVID-19 pandemic to emerge stronger than ever. From opening opportunity’s doors to closing technology gaps, I invite you to read below and learn more about our journey to building a resilient community.

Have a happy holiday season, and let’s all look forward to 2021.


Denis Dunn

Investing in Maryland: Public Safety Broadband Network Expands in Cecil and Charles Counties

First responders in Cecil County and Charles County are getting a major boost in their wireless communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites. This new infrastructure is a part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety.

The new site in Earleville provides coverage along the Elk River. It will also serve White Crystal Beach, West View Shores, and Hack Point communities, as well as the Cecil County Public Works Department.

“This is great news for Earleville, Cecil County and the surrounding areas. This new infrastructure will help advance public safety through our first responders and improve connectivity for area residents, businesses and visitors. It is essential we improve broadband and cellular service in Rural Maryland and throughout the Eastern Shore. I’m pleased to see this expansion of services take place,” said Maryland State Senator Steve Hershey.

The new site in Charles County is near Middletown Road and Berry Road in Waldorf.

“I am appreciative of the FirstNet Authority and AT&T for this critical infrastructure investment necessary to support our first responders and communities in Southern Maryland,” said Maryland Delegate Edith Patterson. “This new site will also benefit businesses and families who now have more access to better mobile broadband services.”

Both sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet.

Leveling the playing field: changing barriers to opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to rapidly change the ways we live and work. So, in a time not short on challenges, how do we change barriers to opportunities? We level the playing field.

  • Closing the homework connectivity gap is a top national priority, and I’m proud that AT&T continues to do its part to keep students connected to their teachers. Recently, we introduced a new education initiative that will build on our efforts and move us closer to closing both the homework gap and the home connectivity gap. And we aren’t stopping there. We also announced a new $10 million contribution and collaboration with Connected Nation that will provide free internet connectivity and devices to underserved communities across the country. Read more about these efforts here.
  • As the pandemic continues to force schools to rely heavily on remote learning, disconnected students are not just missing homework – they are missing critical learning. The federal Lifeline program – a program intended to help make telecommunications services more affordable for low-income Americans – can and should help address these urgent connectivity needs. But first, we need to bring the program into the 21st century. Learn how that can happen.

Supporting equality and upward mobility for underserved communities

At AT&T, we believe each of us has a role to identify and address racial inequality wherever it exists. Many actions can yield positive changes. However, is not a one size fits all approach. Here’s what we’re doing to make a difference:

  • Be sure to watch Between the World and Me on HBO. Based on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ #1 New York Times bestseller, and later adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater, the special combines elements of that production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book. Watch free episodes here.
  • AT&T recently announced the winner of its first HBCU Innovation Challenge, a competition encouraging recent graduates to create and pitch ideas for how to utilize available capacity on AT&T’s 5G infrastructure in ways that will benefit their communities. The proposed solutions can be used for healthcare, education, low-income communities, or another focus area of their choosing. The winners were announced last month at AfroTech World, the largest multicultural tech conference in the United States.
  • A team from Morgan State was a finalist, and won a $20,000 prize. Their bEar Buds’ solution would use machine learning and computer vision technology to translate both Black American Sign Language (BASL) and American Sign Language (ASL) into plain text or audio.
    • You can learn more about the teams and their winning ideas here.
    • Maryland HBCUs were well represented among the semifinalists. Learn more about the other teams from Morgan and Bowie here.

AT&T Backs YouthBuild to Construct Strong Communities

Young people are facing strong headwinds as they pursue career success in today’s economy. But there are bright spots.

AT&T has supported YouthBuild since 2014, most recently providing the organization a $250,000 contribution to support the work of eight local YouthBuild programs around the country, including Civic Works YouthBuild in Baltimore.

With love and respect, YouthBuild partners with opportunity youth to build the skillsets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership. Responding to the urgent need for knowledge, training and opportunity, YouthBuild primarily serves young people who lack a high school diploma and financial resources.

Read more here.