AT&T takes its commitments seriously, and one of those commitments is low-cost broadband. 10Mbps may not be “blazing fast” by today’s standards but it’s more than fast enough for email, general web surfing, and even a little bit of streaming video.
The new program, called “Access,” offers super-low-cost internet starting at $5 a month for 3Mbps service to customers who meet three simple criteria: they must be in the AT&T service area, they must be in good standing with the company, and they must have at least one person on the federal SNAP program (which means they’ve been pre-qualified as a low-income home.)
It’s part of an understanding that internet service is mandatory for growing children, perhaps not to the level that food is but certainly as much as any other educational experience. While some people may complain that this program isn’t available for everyone, it’s designed to help people who need a leg up. I think personally it’s a good idea for several reasons. It helps people, which is good, plus it’s good PR for AT&T, and perhaps brings a little brand loyalty. This level of service probably doesn’t tax AT&T’s existing infrastructure and is probably partially funded by some of those nitpicky fees you see on every bill. That’s the purpose of those fees and it’s good to see them being used for the purpose for which they were intended.
This is not the only subsidized program the company provides. DIRECTV has offered reduced-price service for schools and other non-profit institutions for years and there are special discounts available for AT&T customers who qualify because of their income status or group affiliation. It’s all part of a bigger commitment to service that is evident in both the AT&T and DIRECTV brands. There’s nothing that says a large corporation (even a public one) has to be greedy, and here’s an example of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies actually giving back to the people who need it.
It’s my feeling that the speed levels are just about right, too. Realistically you are not going to stick with 10Mbps if you can afford more, but if you have nothing (or are mooching off a neighbor) this is a great solution for you and it’s going to give you and your family the ability to participate in the world. For kids in school, the internet is as much a part of their research process as books and libraries were for a previous generation. Until or unless someone goes around the country donating internet switch equipment in the same way that Andrew Carnegie built libraries 125 years ago, corporations absolutely should invest in local communities by making sure that everyone has the ability to get minimal internet access at a fair price.