By: Anne Chow, CEO, AT&T Business and Charlene Lake, Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP-Corporate Social Responsibility
The kitchen table is a very popular spot these days. Early morning Fruit Loops with the family to start the day. Followed by math with classmates, teachers, and caregivers. A break for lunch and then back to learning whether it be science, social studies, arts, language arts and more. The table originally made to support fuel for the body now supports fuel for the mind as well. COVID-19 has made this a reality around the globe for millions of students from kindergarten through higher education.
Making this all possible is the common thread of communications enabled by connectivity. This pandemic has taught us that connectivity is both a lifeline – in literal terms for medical workers and first responders – and the underpinning pipeline of the current normal that we’re all living today.
That current normal for education is distance learning. It involves devices, applications specific to math, language and more, video lessons with teachers, caregivers, parents and so much more.
For parents and caregivers, we know this time has brought a multitude of new and unexpected challenges. And we also know the need for broadband connectivity has never been greater. For that reason, we have several initiatives to help keep students connected and continuing their education:
- We’ve expanded our Access from AT&T Program. This program provides internet access at $10 a month for limited income households. We’re offering new customers 2 months of free service and have increased eligibility to households participating in the National School Lunch Program and Head Start.
- We’ve pledged to “Keep America Connected” by waiving late payments and not disconnecting consumers because of inability to pay caused by COVID-19 economic hardship through May 13, 2020.
For educators and small businesses focused on distance learning, we know this is a unique time. We’re supporting students and families as they stand up their technology needs to enable remote learning – something that historically has never been done in our society. We’re here to support in a number of ways:
- Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund: Through this $10M fund, we’ve made contributions to organizations like Khan Academy and Caribu, which is helping us address a critical need brought by the pandemic while remaining true to our long-standing commitment to support communities.
- Supporting Small Business: We’ve made a $1.2M contribution through the fund to help scale small businesses focused on distance learning solutions. This contribution will support seven ed-tech startups that previously participated in AT&T’s Aspire Accelerator: Boddle, CareerVillage, CommonLit, LiftEd, ListenWise, LitLab and Talking Points.
- Through May 23, AT&T is offering schools 60 days of unlimited data at no cost to qualified schools activating new data-only lines for laptops, tablets and hotspots.
B.B. King said it best, “Education is the one thing that no one can take from you.” But you must attain it first. At AT&T, we believe every student deserves the right tools and resources to experience and attain an education, no matter their circumstance, and no matter what table they happen to be sitting at. COVID-19 has made this mission more important than ever. Please join us in spreading word about the ways we and others in the industry are setting up teachers, families and students for success amidst this crisis.