Reflecting on 2020 and serving our communities

Joseph Divis
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.

Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Charlene Brown, our long-time state president, who recently retired after an extraordinary career at AT&T. I know many of you have worked with Charlene over the years. We’re grateful for her years of service, her many accomplishments, and her commitment to her home state of New Jersey. It’s a great honor to continue that work as interim president for New Jersey.

I welcome your feedback.


Joseph Divis

Interim President – AT&T New Jersey

Investing in New Jersey: AT&T expands Mobile Broadband Network in New Jersey

AT&T continues to expand its network across New Jersey, giving FirstNet subscribers and other customers in the Garden State another boost in mobile broadband connectivity.

AT&T turned on new macro sites that improve mobile broadband coverage and capacity in the following areas:

Atlantic County: A new site improves coverage around the Egg Harbor Township Schools and along Zion Road as well as parts of Route 559 Somers Point Road & English Creek Avenue.

Burlington County: A new site provides coverage along I-295 and Route 38, as well as improve in-building coverage to surrounding businesses.

Essex County: This new site on Central Avenue in Newark covers an area around Central Avenue, Lock Street / Wickliffe Street, James Street and Orange Street.

Middlesex County: This new site in Piscataway covers communities around South Washington Avenue, Old Brunswick Road, and West Hamilton Blvd. A second site in South Brunswick covers an area along New Road/Friendship Road, East Broadway Road and Scotts Corner Road.

Morris County: This new site in Florham Park covers an area around Route 24, North Greenwood Avenue, and Ridgedale Avenue to Walnut Street.

Union County: A new site in Berkeley Heights covers an area around Snyder Avenue/Bridge Avenue between Industrial Road Valley View Road, Springfield Avenue between Passaic Avenue and Kuntz Avenue, and Plainfield Avenue to Mountain Avenue.

“New Jerseyans are relying on mobile broadband service more each day. That’s why we continue to build out our network across the state with macro and small cell facilities.” Joseph Divis, interim president, AT&T New Jersey.

Joseph DivisInterim President, AT&T New Jersey

“New Jerseyans are relying on mobile broadband service more each day. That’s why we continue to build out our network across the state with macro and small cell facilities,” Joseph Divis, interim president, AT&T New Jersey. “These new macro sites are foundational to our network and will give our first responders, families and businesses in the area more access to the mobile broadband connections that are so important to the continued 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 New Jersey’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 New Jersey 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.

From 2017-2019, AT&T invested more than $1.3 billion in its wireless and wireline networks in New Jersey to expand coverage, boost reliability, and improve connectivity in more communities.

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, is not a one size fits all approach. Here are a few examples of what we’re doing to make a difference:

  • As part of our $10 million commitment, AT&T is working with organizations across the country to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black, Brown and underserved communities that face long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment.
  • In Newark, AT&T is teaming up with two groups that share those common goals: The Newark Community Street Team (NCST) and Invest Newark. AT&T recently contributed a combined $175,000 to these two organizations to help reduce violence, provide jobs and support local businesses.

“Social and economic injustice are so prevalent throughout the country that it is imperative for our residents and small businesses to have opportunities that will empower and uplift,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “We are thankful for AT&T’s continued commitment to Newark in helping us ensure equality and opportunity for our Black and Brown communities, for supporting our initiatives, and for believing in our city.”

Read more about these initiatives 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.