AT&T “Discriminates” Against The Poor In Broadband Upgrade, Report Says

One of the things we like to talk about on The Lazy Geeks is that AT&T truly hates their customers. Just when you think they cannot go any lower, they manage to surprise people in the concept of truly hating their customers. To give this statement some context, we need to go back two years to when AT&T merged with DirecTV and promised to charge customers $5/month for internet until the company upgraded their equipment in certain Cleveland neighborhoods.

Leave it to their legal team, AT&T found a loophole that would allow them to charge full price for connection speeds that didn’t even get close to 3Mbps. It is best to know that these system upgrades seems to happen in areas that the individual poverty rate was above 35%. Some have deemed this as “Digital Redlining”. It was not until groups like Connect Your Community and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) conducted studies into the matter. The worst thing of all is that AT&T did not deny their findings.

The report states that AT&T has purposefully and “systematically discriminated against lower-income Cleveland neighborhoods in its deployment of home Internet and video technologies over the past decade.”

“Specifically, 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.

According to the report, while people in affluent neighborhoods enjoyed fiber-to-the-node service with speeds from 18Mbps up to 1Gbps, the poorest neighborhoods received speeds of 768kbps to 6mbps which does not even qualify as broadband by the FCC’s own guidelines.

When Ars Technica contacted AT&T about the report, they did not deny the findings but they said it did not “accurately reflect” its network investment. “Access to the Internet is essential, which is why we’ve continuously invested in expanding service and enhancing speeds,” AT&T told Ars. “The report does not accurately reflect the investment we’ve made in bringing faster Internet to urban and rural areas across the US. While we are investing in broadband, we’re also investing in technologies that will mitigate some of the infrastructure limitations.”

According to Engadget, AT&T knew this was going on but when the NDIA brought the practice to light, AT&T announced that it would no longer continue with this practice and comply with the word and the spirit of the FCC ruling.

In the end, there is nothing that the FCC will do about enforcement of the FCC’s earlier ruling in regards to AT&T, simply because the current head of the FCC is a republican and does not see any issue with companies doing things like this and is not a fan of net neutrality as his view is that corporate mergers only increases competition, which makes no sense.

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