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Austin Habitat for Humanity Connects Low-Income Residents With Vital Technology Resources

December 16, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ — Austin Habitat for Humanity announced today that it has teamed with AT&T to bring technology resources to 76 low-income Austin families under the three-year, $100 million AT&T AccessAll signature initiative. AT&T AccessAll is the nation’s largest-ever program designed to provide in-home Internet and technology access, benefiting 50,000 low-income families across the country through a unique collaboration with One Economy Corporation, Habitat for Humanity affiliates and other low- income housing providers.

Austin Habitat for Humanity will receive AT&T AccessAll program resources to benefit 76 households in Austin. Participating households will receive a subsidized technology package that includes a Dell Dimension(TM) computer, desktop software, and an in-kind donation of AT&T DSL broadband or dial-up Internet access. The initiative will also provide families with technology training.

“Austin is such a technology-rich community. We sometimes forget there are people here who don’t have access to computers and the Internet,” said Michael Willard, executive director of Austin Habitat for Humanity. “This project will change the lives of Austin Habitat families by bridging the digital divide that so many in our community already appreciate.”

“It’s been wonderful for our family; the kids do their homework, and my wife is able to use the Internet,” said Tom Martinez, an Austin Habitat for Humanity HomeBuyer and recipient of the technology package and training.

Skilled members of the AT&T Pioneers, which is AT&T’s volunteer organization of employees and retirees, will also provide one-on-one technology instruction. The company-sponsored volunteer organization consists of active and retired employees who perform community outreach projects throughout the country. The AT&T Pioneers have a long history with Habitat for Humanity, having assisted in building homes in Austin.

“Texas is often viewed as a leader in telecommunications policy that brings competition and new services to all consumers, no matter which side of the digital divide they may be on,” said State Representative Dawnna Dukes. “We’re proving that opinion to be well-founded with this event today.”

“We commend Representative Dukes for her leadership in supporting programs that help people of all backgrounds benefit from the opportunities created by technology,” said Jim Epperson, president of AT&T Texas. “AT&T is committed to making affordable technology available to as many homes as possible, and AT&T AccessAll will make a positive impact on underserved communities for many years to come.”

“This is a tremendous public/private partnership,” said Austin City Councilmember Mike Martinez. “It is designed to help bridge the digital divide in Austin in a way that complements the City’s GTOPs Grant program for public access to computers and the Internet through numerous accessible venues all across Austin.”

The city’s Grants for Technology Opportunities Program (GTOPs) has provided an average of $100,000 a year for five years to fund public access to computers and the Internet.

AT&T AccessAll consists of approximately $70 million in grants and contributions from AT&T and the AT&T Foundation and a $30 million in-kind donation of Internet access from AT&T Inc. In the largest initiative announced under the program, nearly half of the funding is being directed through One Economy Corporation to enable affordable technology solutions, including Internet access, to 50,000 low-income single-family and multifamily homes.

One Economy Corporation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing technology access to low-income families, is working with local Habitat for Humanity affiliates to equip Habitat households with an AT&T Foundation-subsidized technology package which includes a Dell Dimension(TM) computer, desktop software, and an in-kind donation of Internet access.

Other partners who have joined the program to continue in the outreach effort include Microsoft, Dell, Siemens and Intel. Additionally, in Austin, a member from the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps*VISTA) is coordinating AT&T AccessAll program details at the local Habitat organization.

“Dell is proud to be part of a program that directly affects and benefits our community,” said Rocky Mountain, vice president, U.S. consumer business. “Our community initiatives often focus on improving digital literacy because technology and technology access are important tools to help communities reach their full potential.”

In-home technology access is especially important for children in school, according to a new U.S. Department of Education report. Limited access can diminish a student’s opportunity to research assignments, explore college scholarships or just get comfortable going online. While the research shows African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians are far less likely to use computers at home, the issue goes beyond racial lines. Thirty- seven percent of those families with incomes below $20,000 use computers at home, compared to 88 percent of those living in families with annual incomes over $75,000.

The approach taken by AT&T AccessAll — combining computer equipment, Internet access, training, and content — – has already proved effective in a pilot program conducted by One Economy. Based on a comparison with a national study of Internet users conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, participants in One Economy’s Digital Communities pilot program are:

   -- Using the Internet at nearly twice the rate of other low-income      Americans.   -- Improving job performance, health outcomes, and community connections      through engaging in specific online activities - such as enrolling in      Web-based courses - at rates higher than other low-income Internet      users.   

One Economy serves as the nation’s major connector between low-income people and the telecommunications and technology industries. The organization has acted as a catalyst to create wired and Wi-Fi/wireless solutions around the country for developers, public housing authorities, nonprofits, Native American tribes and municipalities. Its online self-help Web site, theBeehive.org, helps 2 million low-income people a year to connect to the economic mainstream.

Austin Habitat for Humanity has served the Austin community since 1985, creating 193 affordable new homes with low-income families. Homes are created with volunteer labor and community funding, then sold to AHFH HomeBuyers with zero-interest mortgage loans. Each HomeBuyer participates in financial education programs and contributes some 400 hours of “sweat-equity”. For more information, visit http://www.austinhabitat.org/.

One Economy is a national non-profit organization created to be a catalyst for innovation and change. One Economy helps bring access to technology into the homes of low-income people around the country, using that technology to connect low-income people to thebeehive.org which provides information and tools they can use to build assets and improve their lives. One Economy’s primary market is the 12 million people living in 5.5 million units of government-supported affordable housing across the US. The organization’s secondary market is the 15 million people living in non-government supported affordable housing. Together, these 27 million low-income people represent $250 billion in annual purchasing power, or about 2.5% of the GDP.

The AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc., supports programs that build communities and improve access to information technologies, technology training and professional skills development. The AT&T Foundation will provide more than $60 million in 2006 in charitable contributions, thereby placing it among the top five largest corporate foundations in the country. The AT&T Foundation combines over 40 years and $1.7 billion of philanthropic commitment to communities across the country.

AT&T Inc. is one of the world’s largest telecommunications holding companies and is the largest in the United States. Operating globally under the AT&T brand, AT&T companies are recognized as the leading worldwide providers of IP-based communications services to business and as leading U.S. providers of high speed DSL Internet, local and long distance voice, and directory publishing and advertising services. AT&T Inc. holds a 60 percent ownership interest in Cingular Wireless, which is the No. 1 U.S. wireless services provider with 58.7 million wireless customers. Additional information about AT&T Inc. and AT&T products and services is available at http://www.att.com/.

Austin Habitat for Humanity

CONTACT: Mitchell Gibbs for Austin Habitat for Humanity, +1-512-472-8788×103, info@ahfh.org; or Jodi Bart for AT&T, +1-512-495-7173,jbart@attnews.us

Web site: http://www.austinhabitat.org/http://thebeehive.org/http://www.att.com/




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