The Markup gathered and analyzed more than 800,000 internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, Earthlink, and CenturyLink in 38 cities across America and found that all four routinely offered fast base speeds at or above 200 Mbps in some neighborhoods for the same price as connections below 25 Mbps in others.
The neighborhoods offered the worst deals had lower median incomes in nine out of 10 cities in the analysis. In two-thirds of the cities where The Markup had enough data to compare, the providers gave the worst offers to the least-White neighborhoods.
These providers also disproportionately gave the worst offers to formerly redlined areas in every one of the 22 cities examined where digitized historical maps were available. These are areas a since-disbanded agency created by the federal government in the 1930s had deemed “hazardous” for financial institutions to invest in, often because the residents were Black or poor. Redlining was outlawed in 1968.
I’m not surprised because, hey, it’s corporate America, but I’m still disgusted by all of this and the fact it’s built into the system so reforms won’t do shit.
And then this snivelling response from AT&T, and subsequent lack of response when questioned further:
AT&T spokesperson Jim Greer said in an emailed statement that The Markup’s analysis is “fundamentally flawed” because it “clearly ignored our participation in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program and our low-cost Access by AT&T service offerings.” The Affordable Connectivity Program was launched in 2021 and pays up to $30 a month for internet for low-income residents, or $75 on tribal lands.
“Any suggestion that we discriminate in providing internet access is blatantly wrong,” he said, adding that AT&T plans on spending $48 billion on service upgrades over the next two years.
Recent research looking at 30 major cities found only about a third of eligible households had signed up for the federal subsidy, however, and the majority use it to help cover cellphone bills, which also qualify, rather than home internet costs. Connectivity advocates told The Markup that it’s hard to get people to jump through the bureaucratic hoops needed to sign up for the program when service is slow.
Greer declined to say how many or what percentage of AT&T’s internet customers are signed up for either the ACP or the company’s own low-cost program for low-income residents.