AT&T wants to connect low-income Clevelanders to the possibilities of the internet. And a new affordable online option provided by the communications giant is a big step towards closing the city's digital gap, company officials say.
AT&T, in concert with the U.S. HUD's ConnectHome initiative
, is offering inexpensive internet service to qualifying area households at just $5 to $10 monthly. Rates depend on connection speed, notes Nicolette Jaworski, external affairs director for Cleveland and Toledo.
Families using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP
) are able to choose from three speed tiers - 10Mbps, 5Mbps or 3Mbps. Installation and equipment are free of charge for participating households.
"This is not a one-time deal," says Jaworski of the program available in 21 states where AT&T offers home internet service. "We're invested in the community and have just started to phase in the program."
On November 15, AT&T and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA
) held a program information session at CMHA's Lorain Square Apartments. While AT&T doesn't have a target number as to how many Clevelanders will use the service, officials expect a healthy turnout considering the benefits the internet brings to an increasingly connected planet.
"The world has changed in that we know how critical a home computer can be to academic success," says Jaworksi. "The internet is a resource for kids to learn at home."
Young people are not the only potential beneficiaries of the program. Digital literacy is a boon for senior citizens in terms of bill paying, scheduling doctor's appointments or staying in touch with loved ones. Much of workforce and development training is online-based, adding another layer of capability to the program.
Cleveland school districts and community organizations may become future partners in the high-tech endeavor, Jaworksi notes. AT&T would like to see robust internet as part of city policy, considering fast online speed is a key facet of competitive business. Providing such technology to the area's low-income population can serve as the foundation for a strong, well-connected region.
"We want to give families here the tools they need to succeed," Jaworski says.