Starting next month, millions of families may not be able to afford the internet access their children need to attend school and complete school work if they receive coverage through AT&T. Families getting internet from AT&T should immediately check their plans — the telecom giant will cut off key benefits for families that qualify for their AT&T Access program on September 30, 2020. Families can check to see if their service will be affected by calling AT&T customer service.
The AT&T Access program provides low-cost internet for families who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program, Head Start, or have a qualifying household income. Their current offer waives all data overage fees, effectively allowing students and families engaged in remote learning get the access they need. But starting October 1, some families using AT&T Access will be hit with unaffordable data overage charges. Plus, the expansion to families in the National School Lunch Program and Head Start is only temporary, and could end at any time. Millions of kids are being left behind as schools have transitioned to online learning, and this change could leave underserved kids even further behind.
AT&T Access currently has a data allowance of between 150GB and 1T per month, depending on location. When the data overage fee waiver ends, families will pay $10 for every 50GB of data they go over that limit. For the millions of low-income families that have parents and kids working and learning from home, that will become unaffordable quickly.
For example, here’s how AT&T’s decision to end this program would affect a family of 4, where both kids are doing remote school and both parents are working from home. If every family member spends just 4 hours of their day on video calls and 4 hours working on the internet, according to AT&T’s own data calculator, that family will use more than 800 GB of data. This means all families except those with the very fastest connections will pay more, and some could pay up to $130 per month in additional fees. Plus, this estimate only includes work and school activities, with no TV, music, or video games. Fees would be even higher for families with more children or who use any amount of data for entertainment.