AT&T has become a major stakeholder in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) ConnectHome initiative to connect low-income families with internet services, but critics question the availability of its new offerings.
As part of its work with HUD, the service provider plans to host 30 events across 15 ConnectHome pilot communities located within AT&T’s 21-state wireline service area.
During these events, AT&T will provide information about Access from AT&T, a low-cost internet service it launched in April.
AT&T will also provide up to 100 Udacity Nanodegree program scholarships to select participants in designated HUD communities. Nanodegree programs are self-paced, online curricula that provide students in-demand skills to help obtain tech-related jobs. The courses will focus on web development, mobile development and data analytics.
Set to start on September 10, the events will spread ConnectHome pilot communities in several cities across ten states: New York, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, California, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Texas.
Households that qualify for Access from AT&T will be able to access three speed tiers: 10 Mbps, 5 Mbps or 3 Mbps available at their address. Speeds of 10 Mbps and 5 Mbps will cost $10 a month while 3 Mbps will cost $5. AT&T will waive installation and internet equipment fees for participating households.
However compelling AT&T’s intentions are to bridge the so-called digital divide, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) said in a report that many of its affiliates that tried to help SNAP participants apply for Access were told the program was unavailable.
The organization said that a number of those households had recently subscribed to AT&T internet service or had next door neighbors with current accounts.
NDIA said that if a particular address is less than 3 mbps, an otherwise eligible SNAP recipient at that address can't sign up for Access.
Citing data published by the FCC from its Form 477 surveys of providers, NDIA said that AT&T's fastest reported download connection for VDSL2 was 1.5 mbps or less for households in about 21 percent of all Census blocks in inner-city areas of Cleveland and Detroit
AT&T denied NDIA’s request to allow SNAP participants living at addresses with 1.5 Mbps to qualify for Access service at $5 a month.
“AT&T is not prepared to expand the low income offer to additional speed tiers beyond those established as a condition of the merger approval,” AT&T told NDIA.