Telecom companies are much notorious and many consumers often complain about the slow services, issues in coverage, and high prices. However, what if you cannot stream your favorite show or research your term paper as the internet service in your area is very slow? What if the slow speed is based on your neighborhood and not because you have used up the data allowance?
Experts say that this might be happening in the poorest neighborhoods of Cleveland and AT&T internet might be the culprit. As per the report from internet consumer advocacy groups like Connect Your Community and National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the lack of investment and refusal to extend the available discounts services to poor neighborhoods is equivalent to income discrimination that was used by banks, called redlining.
The internet consumer advocacy groups analyzed the broadband availability data of FCC and they found that the Cleveland neighborhoods with highest poverty rates have the slowest internet connections. They also added that the old infrastructure in use by AT&T is the cause of the slow internet speeds. As per the report released by the groups, AT&T is not investing in fiber based broadband internet infrastructure and are excluding some of the neighborhoods from their discounted internet services for the low income users.
Gizmodo also reported that AT&T was blocking high-speed best internet access to those neighborhoods where at least thirty-five percent of the total population lived below the poverty line. This means that the more money a household makes, the more likely they are to have good internet access.
“Recognizing a publicly traded company’s first priority is to profit means we, as a country, must take the necessary steps to ensure broadband infrastructure is upgraded equally regardless of income, not just for today but for the future,” NDIA director Angela Siefer said. “Since the free market is clearly not solving this issue, we need local, state and federal policies that encourage build out in all neighborhoods, subsidizing when necessary.”
Access to internet services from the various internet providers is an economic issue. It is estimated that thirteen percent of the adults in USA, who do not use the internet, make less than fifty thousand dollars per year. As per the report from the Center for Public Integrity, twenty percent of Americans in low-income families do not have access to the internet and among those, who make between 35,000 and 47,000 dollars, fifteen percent are not connected to the internet.
Many regulatory efforts are in place to mitigate these issues. One such regulation is the net neutrality that prohibits the broadband internet providers from blocking, throttling, and other techniques to control internet speeds. Nevertheless, experts believe that these regulations are at risk under the Trump Administration.