By Jeff Luong, President – Broadband Access and Adoption Initiatives
For many of us, working from home or attending class online from the kitchen table has become routine. The thought of being “unplugged” may sound like a strange and unusual concept. Maybe it’s something you do when you simply need to take a social media hiatus, or when you want to meditate in peace.
For millions of families and students across the country, however, being “unplugged” is not a luxury or a temporary disruption. It’s the harsh reality of the digital divide and unfortunately, Native Americans on Tribal Lands are among those least connected to high-speed Internet.
The lack of connectivity doesn’t just limit someone’s ability to connect online – it also prevents them from competing in our modern economy.
This needs to change, which is why we’re working with Native American tribes like the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians in Southern California as they seek to bring broadband service to more than 400 homes on Rincon tribal lands.
Together with the Rincon Tribe, we see fiber as an asset that can provide more educational opportunities, enhance and improve access to healthcare, and strengthen the ways the community can connect with one another.
Bo Mazzetti, Chairman of the Rincon Tribe, said “Delivering reliable high-speed internet service to our tribal Community is a top priority for us” and at AT&T, we’re ready to help accomplish that goal.
Our work to help close the digital divide doesn’t stop here. From 2021 to 2023, we have committed to investing $2 billion to help address the issue. We have also launched initiatives such as AT&T Connected Learning Centers to help narrow the homework gap by investing in connectivity, technology, digital literacy and learning tools to help today’s students succeed, inside and outside of the classroom.
That’s not all. Because the digital divide is also a matter of affordability, AT&T is also working to make internet access more affordable for low-income households. AT&T recently introduced a new plan in the Access from AT&T program that provides faster internet with up to 100 Mbps of symmetrical speeds for $30 per month with no cap on data usage. Eligible households that take advantage of the up to $30 per month Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) federal benefit (or up to $75 per month for those on qualified Tribal lands) and apply it to their Access from AT&T plan can then receive internet service at no monthly charge.
There are many reasons I am proud of the work we do at AT&T, but days like this – days where we get to work to improve connectivity in underserved communities like the Rincon Band – are my favourite.