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.