The residents of Cleveland, Ohio recently claimed that the telecom giant, AT&T® has failed to deliver high-speed broadband access to the low-income African-American communities in the region. They also claimed that AT&T®, who is one of the leading internet providers in the country, has been delivering a higher speed broadband internet service to the wealthier and suburban neighborhoods.
Three self-described low-income African-America residents, Rachelle Lee, Hattie Lanfair, and Joanne Elkins, filed a complaint against the Telco a few days ago. They alleged that the telecom company is in clear violation of the Communications Act’s bar against unreasonable and unjust discrimination. These residents also requested for monetary damages and injunctions that will prohibit the telecom company from discriminatory practices.
In addition to that, they also requested the FCC to force AT&T® to offer broadband internet service to the low-income minority communities in the region. They cited a recent study of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community and pointed out that the failure to offer high-speed internet service to low-income communities is actually a part of a pattern by the telecom giant.
The study also revealed that AT&T® has withheld their fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) VDSL infrastructure from several major high poverty census blocks in the country that had individual poverty rates of more than 35 percent. The complaints stated, “Such low-income neighborhoods have been relegated to an older, slower transmission technology called ADSL2, resulting in significantly slower internet access speeds than what AT&T provides to middle-income city neighborhoods as well as most suburbs. As a result, their residents are left with severely limited and uneven internet access; no access to AT&T’s competitive fiber-enabled video service.”
Reports from several sources indicate that the lawyers who represented Elkins, Lanfair, and Lee tried to solve the issue before filing the complaint. They even held settlement discussion talks with the telecom giant, but both parties failed to reach a settle on the issue. Consequently, the lawyers were forced to file a complaint against AT&T® to bring justice to the low-income minority communities in the area.
AT&T’s EVP of regulatory and state external affairs, Joan Marsh, responded to the issue and said, “We do not redline. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unparalleled. Our investment decisions are based on the cost of deployment and demand for our services and are of course fully compliant with the requirements of the Communications Act. We will vigorously defend the complaint filed.”