I have good news.

On September 5, I revealed in a blog article on the NDIA website that AT&T officials had told us they would continue to deny “Access from AT&T” discount service to many thousands of eligible low-income households living at addresses where available DSL download speeds are less than 3 mbps. I expressed regret that NDIA’s efforts over several weeks to persuade AT&T to lower that threshold and extend the program to lower-speed addresses had been unsuccessful.  I concluded: “AT&T’s response is very unfortunate for tens of thousands of households in the company’s 21-state service territory who may need affordable Internet access the most, but who happen to live in places – both city neighborhoods and rural communities – where AT&T has failed to upgrade its residential service to provide reasonable speeds.”

A number of online news sites covered and quoted this blog post.

Today, we learned from an article first published yesterday by CNN Money that AT&T has reconsidered its position, and now intends to expand Access to lower-speed households. The article by CNN’s Chris Isidore says in part:

AT&T has been charging some of its poorest customers top dollar for its slowest internet service.

But after criticism from a public interest group and press coverage about the disparity, the company said Friday it plans to change the policy…

“We’re currently working to expand the eligibility process of Access from AT&T to the 2% of our home internet customers unable to receive internet speed tiers of 3 Mbps and above,” said spokesman Brett Levecchio.

NDIA is gratified to learn that AT&T has reconsidered its earlier refusal.

AT&T had 12.6 million UVerse Internet customers in the first quarter of 2015, so their acknowledged 2% amounts to a quarter of a million households now paying for service at speeds below 3 mbps. As our post pointed out, FCC data shows a high concentration of those households in some low-income areas of Detroit, Cleveland and other cities, where there are thousands of Food Assistance households who should be eligible for $5-$10 monthly Internet from the Access program. Some are already paying AT&T full price for their slow connections, while many others can’t afford Internet at all — and still won’t be able to, unless the Access speed threshold is lowered.

Both groups will benefit from AT&T’s change of heart.

We look forward to learning more about AT&T’s plans to extend Access from AT&T to these households, and to working with our local affiliates to maximize the program’s contribution to digital inclusion in their communities.

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