AT&T has now revised their decision that denied potential low-income users access to affordable internet services in those areas where AT&T has not modernized their network. As per the latest reports, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, who can meet some of the qualifications, will now be able to buy internet access from AT&T for five dollars a month in areas where the network speed of the company is below 3 Mbps.
“We’re currently working to expand the eligibility process of Access from AT&T to the 2 percent of our home internet customers unable to receive internet speed tiers of 3 Mbps and above,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a press release. This decision marks an expansion of one of the conditions that was put in place by FCC when they approved the merger of AT&T and DirecTV.
Federal Communications Commission mandated AT&T to allow qualifying low-income users access network for charges less than or equal to ten dollars in those areas where download speeds of 5 Mbps or 10 Mbps are available. In areas where the speed is at least 3 Mbps, charges should not be more than five dollars.
However, FCC failed to set a capped price for those areas where AT&T network offers speeds less than 3 Mbps and the service provider interpreted it as having no pricing mandate for their slower network. Making use of this loophole, AT&T charged users thirty dollars per month for the initial twelve months. AT&T also rejected a proposal from broadband advocacy group National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to offer low-income subscribers with less expensive services.
AT&T claimed that a “vast majority” of their service areas has internet speeds higher than 3 Mbps. Nevertheless, reports from third party agencies claim that many neighborhoods with low-income households had access to speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less. From the support page of AT&T, it seems that they will continue to subject their low-income users to data caps with ten dollars overage fees for an additional 50 GB of data.
In a blog post, NDIA said it is “gratified to learn that AT&T has reconsidered its earlier refusal. 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.”