AT&T, McCaw and 12 California consumer groups announce accord

SAN FRANCISCO -- December 22, 1993 -- AT&T, McCaw Cellular and a dozen California consumer groups today agreed on far-reaching principles to assure new information age technologies are accessible for all Califor- nians.

The agreement focuses on how emerging communications tech- nology will be provided for minority, low income, inner-city and disabled communities.

The document will be filed with the California Public Utilities Commission in support of McCaw Cellular's merger with AT&T.

The 12 groups signing the agreement, all active in telecom- munications issues, are: Public Advocates, Inc., Latino Issues Forum, the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, the World Institute on Disability, the Mex- ican American Political Association, the Filipino American Political Association, Center for Southeast Asian Refugee Resettlement, the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the American GI Forum, Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal (OCCUR), and the National Community Reinvestment Network, with members in 28 states and 75 cities.

Speaking at a San Francisco news conference, AT&T Vice President James E. Barden said, "AT&T believes it is important to work with consumer groups to help ensure that tomorrow's com- munications infrastructure is fully and effectively accessible and affordable for all Americans.

"It makes good business sense to link all Americans to this nation's new and emerging telecommunications networks," he said.

The agreement establishes two universal availability task forces on new technology. One task force, composed of California community leaders, will assist AT&T in developing a California Emerging Technology Continuous Improvement Plan.

That plan will outline procedures and set three-to-five year goals for full availability of wireless telecommunications ser- vices. Targeted are individuals and small businesses in the minority, low-income, inner-city and disabled communities of McCaw's service areas.

AT&T will fund community education, participation and penetration projects designed to achieve the goals. The task force will monitor efforts to achieve those goals.

The other task force is an AT&T Quality Council charged with setting internal strategic goals for the provision of emerging technology. It will make quarterly reports to AT&T's chairman.

John Gamboa, executive director of Latino Issues Forum, said, "AT&T and its visionary chairman Robert Allen have stepped to the forefront with a bold commitment to link all Californians to essential information and 21st century technologies."

Rev. Charles Stith, chair of the National Community Reinvestment Network, said, "AT&T has boldly outflanked its com- petitors in seeking to link all Americans to 21st Century tech- nology in the new information age. Minorities want full access, not token outdated phone service.

"AT&T appears to understand our aspirations and demands to prevent the development of a two-tiered, segregated system of high tech wireless for the affluent and antiquated service for everyone else."

Henry Der, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Ac- tion, said of the agreement, "Today, with one bold stroke, AT&T has swept into the telecommunications forefront, much as it did in 1986 when it became the first phone company to offer mul- tilingual service to all Asian American communities."

Fred Jordan, president of the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce, said, "Future economic development and job creation for minorities and the entire society are dependent on state of the art, first class telecommunications technology for all. AT&T is to be commended for seeking to take the lead."

Copies of the agreement are available at Public Advocates.