AT&T accused of ‘digitally redlining’ poor neighborhoods with slower Internet

theGrio | 3/14/2017, 12:02 p.m.
Connect Your Community and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), community groups based in Cleveland, have recently issued a report ...

Connect Your Community and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), community groups based in Cleveland, have recently issued a report accusing AT&T of “digitally redlining” broadband service in the area.

Digital redlining refers to the process that lenders used to rely on in which loans were denied to people from low-income areas. While companies claimed that the process was used because such people were considered a liability, it was often instead used to discriminate against minorities and others until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977.

Now, the reports issued by the NDIA and Connect Your Community is accusing AT&T of doing something similar, but with internet speeds, alleging that AT&T has “systematically discriminated against lower-income Cleveland neighborhoods in its deployment of home Internet and video technologies over the past decade.”

Specifically, the report points to inconsistent upgrades as the culprit.

“AT&T has chosen not to extend its ‘fiber-to-the-node’ VDSL infrastructure — which is now the standard for most Cuyahoga County suburbs and other urban AT&T markets throughout the US — to the majority of Cleveland Census blocks, including the overwhelming majority of blocks with individual poverty rates above 35 percent,” the report states.

Since the report broke, an AT&T representative has issued the following statement in response: “Access to the internet is essential, which is why we’ve continuously invested in expanding service and enhancing speeds. The report does not accurately reflect the investment we’ve made in bringing faster internet to urban and rural areas across the U.S. While we are investing in broadband, we’re also investing in technologies that will mitigate some of the infrastructure limitations.”