Reflecting on 2020 and serving our communities

David Kerr
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.


David Kerr

Investing in Pennsylvania: AT&T expands Mobile Broadband Network statewide

First responders in Hyndman, Bedford County, are getting a major boost in their wireless communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built FirstNet cell site that AT&T turned up recently. This new site, which was announced in July 2018, is a part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety.

“We built this site based on the feedback from local and state first responders who had to manage crises without reliable coverage. First responders in Hyndman and Bedford County now have another tool they can use to keep their communities safe,” said Jim Penna, AT&T’s regional director for External Affairs in Western Pennsylvania. “Our first responders deserve fast, reliable and dedicated coverage when they need it across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting.”

Penna said AT&T announced other purpose-built sites in Huntingdon, Lycoming and Sullivan counties in June 2020. Read more about this new site here. In December 2020, AT&T also announced several new FirstNet sites across the Northern Tier.

The company also has turned up other mobile broadband sites statewide, including sites in Centre County, Jefferson County, Somerset County, Lackawanna County, Luzerne County, Northampton County, Pike County and Susquehanna County. And, in December AT&T announced new sites across Western Pennsylvania, including Beaver, Cambria, Clearfield, Crawford, Erie and Washington Counties.

“Pennsylvanians are relying on mobile broadband service more each day. That’s why we continue to build out our network across the Commonwealth, including our more rural communities.” David Kerr, president, AT&T Pennsylvania.

David Kerr — President, AT&T Pennsylvania

“Pennsylvanians are relying on mobile broadband service more each day. That’s why we continue to build out our network across the Commonwealth, including our more rural communities,” said David Kerr, president, AT&T Pennsylvania. “These new sites will give our first responders, families and businesses in the area more access to the mobile broadband connections that are so important to the safety, vibrancy and competitiveness of the state.”

The new sites benefit public safety and first responders on FirstNet – public safety’s dedicated communications platform and give Pennsylvania’s first responders access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.1 FirstNet is built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority. It’s designed to help first responders in Pennsylvania and across the country connect to the critical information they need – when they need it – so they can keep themselves and the communities they serve safer.

These new sites have Band 14 spectrum, which is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity.

1 Based on AT&T analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data median download speeds for Q2 2020. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

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, there is not a one size fits all approach. For example, in Pennsylvania, AT&T is working with organizations in Philadelphia to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities who face long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment, all of which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are working with community leaders and non-profit organizations in Philadelphia to create pathways to economic empowerment and social equality. To that end, we have announced a combined $180,000 in contributions to four city organizations: Community College of Philadelphia Foundation; MenzFit; Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative. Read more here.

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 will combine elements of that production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book. Watch free HBO episodes here.

Celebrating our past and inspiring our future

On June 30, 1970, the world’s first commercial video conferencing service launched in Pittsburgh with an inaugural call from Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty to Alcoa Chairman and CEO John Harper. AT&T’s “Picturephone” system allowed the two to speak “face-to-face,” even though they were blocks away from each other.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary — June 30, 2020 — current Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Alcoa Chairman Michael G. Morris participated in a video chat, as their predecessors did a half century ago.
More information about the history of the Picturephone and how CMU purchased an original pair of AT&T Mod II Picturephones from 1970 is available here. A video of the technology is available here.

Read more and watch the 2020 chat here.