Venessa Harrison, President, AT&T Southeast Coastal States: Building a Gateway to Opportunity for Augusta’s Youth

Venessa Harrison, President, AT&T Southeast Coastal States

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Source: AT&T

Growing up in Southeast Raleigh, my mother always taught us that where you begin does not define your destiny. 

My family grew up in low-income housing projects, but I always knew that with the upbringing and guidance of my mother and support organizations in my community, we would do great things. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to celebrate the launch of AT&T Connected Learning Centers in Augusta at RISE Augusta, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Augusta and at the Boys and Girls Club of Wake County – the same Boys and Girls Club that I grew up in. 

As president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States, participating in the Connected Learning Center launches at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Augusta was a proud moment for me. It was a chance to give back to an organization that gave me opportunity and helped shape who I am today. 

These centers provide students and families a place where they can access high-speed internet, computers, education and mentoring resources – all for free.

In fact, AT&T recently announced plans to reach 50 total centers nationwide through the AT&T Connected Learning initiative, including at Boys & Girls Clubs.

While we work to provide resources to students through AT&T Connected Learning Centers, we know that students and families also need access to reliable internet connections at home. This is part of a national problem known as the digital divide – the gap between those who have high-quality internet and those who don’t. 

Internet affordability, especially amid heightened inflation, has a huge impact. In fact, in Augusta, it’s estimated that more than 10,000 K-12 students don’t have access to high-quality connectivity.

The good news is, by working together and leveraging new programs, we can provide a gate of opportunity to all our students.

Recent game-changing investments from the federal government give us a once-in-a-generation chance to connect more students to the digital world. For example, many parents may not know is that there is a new federal program, the Affordability Connectivity Program, helping to lower internet costs. Eligible households can enroll to receive a monthly benefit of up to $30 a month, or up to $75 a month on qualifying Tribal lands, on their home internet, including AT&T Fiber where available. Or qualified families can use it toward our low-cost Access from AT&T plan to get home internet for $0 after the ACP benefit is applied. After you confirm your ACP eligibility, you can visit us online or call 866-986-0963 to review your options and order service. Be sure to have your ACP application ID handy when you do this.

We want everyone in Augusta to be able to participate in the digital world. While affordability helps in including more folks, we also must focus on making sure that broadband is accessible to households wherever they are. 

While it is great news that the federal government is investing billions to deploy broadband, it is also on us in the private sector to invest and engage with communities to deliver solutions. 

It will take this kind of laser-focused commitment and persistence to bridge the inequalities of technology access, affordability and adoption. The federal government, telecommunications companies and nonprofits will need to continue to work together to build this gateway to the future for all of Augusta’s families. 

We know how critical this work is and we are already getting it done.