Apr 5, 2024 - News

AT&T CEO on shrinking digital divide

An illustration of AT&T logo

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Dallas-based AT&T is putting an additional $3 billion by 2030 toward projects aimed at closing the digital divide in the U.S., the company announced yesterday.

Why it matters: U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prices for internet among developed countries.

  • One of the existing solutions — the Affordable Connectivity Program — will "undoubtedly" run out of funds this month.

Zoom in: Lower-income and rural households are less likely than wealthier and urban Americans to have high-speed internet, which puts them at a disadvantage in education, entrepreneurship and employment.

  • More than 23 million U.S. households are at risk of losing discounts on their internet access if Congress doesn't fund the Affordable Connectivity Program.

State of play: The company has a goal of helping 25 million people in the U.S. access and "stay connected to affordable, high-speed internet" this decade.

  • In 2021, AT&T initially committed $2 billion by 2024 toward this mission and says it has since helped nearly 5 million Americans.

What they're saying: "Unfortunately, we haven't seen this administration come up with the right approach to define how they want to change those programs," AT&T CEO John Stankey tells Axios.

What we're watching: The telecom giant intends to grow the number of Connected Learning Centers, which include free use of computers and the internet, as well as skills training and mentorship. There are currently 37 across the country.

  • The company also wants to continue expanding its coverage across tribal lands and extend its discounted high-speed internet service to its prepaid and Cricket services.
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