AT&T to Invest More Than $17B in Broadband, Community

High-school drop-out rates? Environmental issues? Volunteerism? These don’t at first blush seem to be the core business of a telecom carrier, particularly in the midst of a recession. Yet AT&T Inc. is ponying up $865 million to help communities address “critical national challenges,” as it put it.

In addition to citizenship and sustainability initiatives, AT&T plans to invest $17 billion to $18 billion in 2009 capital expenditures. Approximately two-thirds of AT&T’s 2009 investment will extend and enhance AT&T’s wireless and wired broadband networks, it said.

“America’s future depends not only on the investments that companies like ours make in our people and our communities, but also on how well those investments drive us to be more competitive globally,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T, in a statement. “That’s why we’re committed to investments with long-term benefits for AT&T and our country. I am proud of our employees, our programs and our progress as we continue on this journey.”

The $865 million will cover multi-year social and environmental investments. They include:

  • Education and Workforce Readiness: In 2008, AT&T launched AT&T Aspire, a $100 million multi-year education initiative to help stem the U.S. high school dropout crisis. In its first year, the program supported four primary components: grants to schools and nonprofits, dropout prevention summits organized by America’s Promise Alliance, dropout prevention research and an AT&T-wide job shadowing program – which, in its first year, enabled more than 13,000 students in 100 cities to shadow AT&T employees.
  • Community Volunteerism: In 2008, AT&T employees and retirees volunteered 10.3 million hours of their time, worth more than and estimated $200 million, to improve communities where they live and work. For example, AT&T partnered with the Communications Workers of America to support Share Our Strength’s efforts to address childhood hunger during this year’s National Day of Service. The effort collected and delivered more than 50,000 pounds of food to local area food banks in 39 metropolitan areas.
  • A Cleaner Fleet: Earlier this year, AT&T announced plans to invest up to $565 million to roll out more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles over the next 10 years. This means removing approximately 211,000 metric tons of emissions from communities where the fleet operates. This is the equivalent of removing approximately 38,000 passenger cars from the road for a year. AT&T has also made progress on measuring corporate-wide CO2 emissions and determining baselines with a plan to disclose AT&T’s domestic carbon footprint by the end of 2009.

“Corporate responsibility and sustainability doesn’t evaporate in a down economy, and in fact are more critical because the country’s challenges are greater,” said Charlene Lake, senior vice president of public affairs and chief sustainability officer at the carrier. “We are committed to exploring the specific ways in which society’s needs intersect with AT&T and, while we have made significant progress, we recognize the need for continual improvement.”

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