There is a lot of momentum in Washington (DC) and in state governments right now to improve the adoption of broadband by addressing the issue of affordability for low-income communities. To decide what policies will do the most good for low-income households seeking broadband connectivity, it’s important to first understand the existing marketplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated shifts in how we communicate and magnified the importance of broadband connectivity for all Americans. We commend FCC Commissioner Carr for his remarks highlighting the urgent need to address the meltdown of the current subsidy program for low-income Americans.
AT&T announced it will invest $2 billion over the next 3 years to help address the digital divide.
Expanding affordable broadband through AT&T’s low-cost offers and the Emergency Broadband Benefit program administered by the Federal Communications Commission
AT&T estimated the number of total housing units without fixed broadband service at the Federal Communications Commission’s current 25/3 speed threshold (9.8 million) and at a 100/20 speed threshold (16.4 million) in both served and unserved census blocks. These are nationwide estimates without regard to any measure of “high-cost”
Billions of dollars have already been directed to broadband infrastructure and affordability in stimulus legislation, and we anticipate a significant commitment to broadband deployment in the upcoming Biden infrastructure bill. But all of this has raised two – and I think separate – fundamental questions.
California has enacted a “net neutrality” law banning “sponsored data” services that allowed companies to pay for, or “sponsor,” the data usage of their customers who are also AT&T wireless customers. Unfortunately, under the California law we are now prohibited from providing certain data features to consumers free of charge. Prior to California’s law, sponsored data customers were able to browse, stream and enjoy applications from sponsors without using their monthly data allowance.
March 12, we are filing our application to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program so we can offer low-income customers additional options for discounted broadband services. We appreciate the Commission’s efforts to move swiftly to implement this program and we look forward to its official launch date. While the EBB will help address the immediate broadband connectivity needs of many low-income Americans, we will continue to work with Congress and others to identify permanent and sustainable funding solutions.