LIVE FROM MWC LAS VEGAS 2022: While building out fibre, fixed and wireless services are key for bridging the digital divide, an AT&T executive stated there also needs to be a push to encourage adoption of connectivity services.

Jeff Luong, president of broadband access and adoption at AT&T, noted that the federal Affordability Connection Programme provides US households with $30 a month for high-speed internet, and currently 40 per cent of the population is eligible for the broadband benefits, but the uptake has been slow.

“We as an industry need to do our part to make sure that people are aware of the programme and are eligible to sign up for the services,” he noted. “The issue of the digital divide has been weighing heavily on our industry, politicians, policymakers and activists for some time, and action is underway for all the players.”

In addition to federal funding, Luong stated there was billions of dollars available from state and local entities for broadband funding.

While the wireless industry has the wherewithal to build networks, private entities also have a role to play. Combining federal funds with matching capital from the private sector “enables companies to economically build out their network to unserved and underserved locations”.

“Companies like AT&T have incredible expertise in the designing, building, maintaining, and upgrading fibre and wireless networks,” Luong said. “No question the private sector is in the best position to engineer these networks and keep them running efficiently and effectively.”

He noted AT&T is opening connected learning centres across the US to provide internet access and visual learning courses to students to improve their digital literacy.

“I hope you join us and make it your mission to close the digital divide. We have the technology the funding, the political will and effort to get it done.”