This is big news. Telephone, Internet and cable TV behemoth AT&T is now offering high-speed internet to low-income families for just $5 a month. There’s just one small catch — and it’s a very small one, indeed — at least one person in the household must receive food stamp benefits (SNAP).
The new program is called Access from AT&T. After prolonged negotiations with the Federal Communications Commission, the company agreed to offer this great discount plan in order to get permission to acquire DirecTV.
“Access from AT&T will offer 3Mbps connections for $5 a month, and faster 5Mbps or 10Mbps connections for $10 a month,” money.com said. “Installation and equipment fees will also be waived. People don’t actually get to choose their speed, they’ll automatically be assigned the fastest available where they live.”
Refurbished computers will also be made available for less than $150 to qualifying customers.
We expect Access from AT&T to be a very popular program across the country because 22 million families receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or Food Stamps).
High-speed AT&T broadband service is now available in 21 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin. That includes 2/3 of the residents of the United States.
This is clearly a huge leap forward for America’s financially-struggling families. Combined with similar, but more expensive programs from Comcast, Google Fiber, Cox Communications and CenturyLink, it could potentially help millions of families to bridge the Digital Divide — that gap that separates the richest Americans from the poorest in terms of home access to the internet.
The program isn’t perfect. And neither is the FCC.
“Though any connection might be an improvement for many homes, 10Mbps and under is still considered a slow connection. According to the FCC, a broadband connection is 25Mpbs and up,” money.com said. “There will be data limits for people using the program, up to 600GB a month, and overage charges for anyone who uses more.”
As much as we think this program can potentially help millions of American families, we are still left less than enthusiastic about those edicts from the FCC.
Here’s how CheapInternet.com’s Director of Tech Services reacted to those :
What’s crazy is the government’s typical non-understanding of the technical issues. No one NEEDS 25Mpbs speed and almost no one uses anywhere near 600GB a month. Not even heavy Internet users. It’s incredible foolishness to force Internet service providers to provide that level of service.
This is the “thinking” (and I use that word very loosely) that is going to raise the prices for everyone else — trying to give all the low-income families the speed and limits that those who pay $60 a month can’t even get. In the end, everyone else will end up paying $90 instead of $60 for service they don’t need, so others can pay $5 for service they don’t need.
The Access from AT&T plan is scheduled to be offered through the year 2020.
What remains to be seen is if AT&T will promote this program as aggressively as Comcast promotes its competitive Internet Essentials program or if it will attempt to hide it as CenturyLink does with its Internet Basics program. In all three cases, the programs were mandated in order to gain FCC approval of the companies’ mergers and acquisitions.
It sounds like a great plan and we hope AT&T follows in the footsteps of the former rather than the latter.
For more information and how to enroll, please read our page on Access from AT&T.