AT&T dismissed the idea that providers would redline
March 14, 2017 7:14 AM   Subscribe

The Digital Redlining Of Cleveland A new report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance finds that AT&T systematically deployed high speed technology to wealthier homes, while relegating poorer neighborhoods to the slowest connections.

One useful map.

Some reflections from Clevescene and Gizmodo.

The data... show a clear and troubling pattern: A pattern of long-term, systematic failure to invest in the infrastructure required to provide equitable, mainstream Internet access to residents of the central city (compared to the suburbs) and to lower-income city neighborhoods.
posted by doctornemo (32 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This has happened all over the country and it sucks for those of us who don't have a lot of money.
posted by mareli at 7:18 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


att, being utterly evil?

shocked, i am shocked
posted by entropicamericana at 7:42 AM on March 14 [7 favorites]


Verizon has been happy to advertise Fios to everyone who lives in Baltimore City for years, but will they actually let us buy it?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:43 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Ooooooh, I have exactly this same problem with AT&T. Who provide "fiber" internet ... but whenever I call to check, it's "we're not doing it in your [central city] neighborhood right now." So I'm on ADSL. What's particularly thrilling is that AT&T promises me 6-12 mbps and their speed test always shows me getting like 6.74, 6.81, things around there ... on the low end of their contract-required speed. But independent tests always show me getting about 3, and I'm pretty sure that's more accurate. And they do sell all of this as "broadband."

I'm extra-thrilled because I called to replace my modem, and they told me they're no longer allowing consumers to connect with owned modems because it's "too hard to support" and if I want a newer modem I get to rent it for $7.50 a month forever.

My only other choice is comcast, who charge twice as much for weekly service outages and may or may not ever show up for appointments.

But yeah, my friends in the richer parts of the city, and the high-end suburbs have AT&T fiber. Somehow it's never the right time for them to install fiber in older neighborhoods. Preferring to live in a walkable older mixed-class neighborhood -- something the city wants to encourage to help stabilize the older, poorer parts of the city! -- condemns you to shitty internet and frequent water outages. The city council could of course step in and require AT&T and Comcast to fulfill their franchise requirements, but that seems hard and our city council is too busy doing giveaways to developers who then go bankrupt and take their city loan money with them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:46 AM on March 14 [17 favorites]


Verizon has been happy to advertise Fios to everyone who lives in Baltimore City for years, but will they actually let us buy it?

Market efficiency isn't exactly offering much choice between AT&T and Verizon. For instance, 1 million NYC homes can’t get Verizon FiOS, so the city just sued Verizon. NYC's complaint claims, "Verizon has defaulted on its obligations both to build out its network and to undertake the process for providing service where requested by potential subscribers. {...} Indeed, Verizon has failed even to accept many New Yorkers' requests for FiOS service, although the Agreement requires it to do so."

Verizon, having once promised to complete its FiOS rollout by 2014 in New York, is now offering the city a four-year plan for further investment into laying fiber.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:50 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


We just got FIOS in my NYC area 2 months ago—and I suspect it's because they're going to ramp up the gentrification around here shortly. The local train station is getting a new set of elevators, too, with construction set to start at the end of this year. Umm-hmm.
posted by droplet at 7:53 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Telcos always remind me of Dean Yeager from Ghostbusters. "We believe that the purpose of telecommunications is to serve mankind. You, however, seem to regard it as some kind of dodge or hustle."
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:54 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


In any event, AT&T dismissed the idea that providers would redline or cherrypick communities, and legislators apparently believed them; the legislation passed both houses with virtually unanimous support, including “Yes” votes from every Cleveland representative.

We've got to regulate internet service providers as we do other public utility companies. Not that those regulations are necessarily enough, but it's a start.

FFS, there are more potential customers per block in Cleveland's redlined areas than there are in spread-out new-build suburbs. This isn't even a decision that makes financial sense for AT&T.
posted by asperity at 7:54 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


Wealthy areas have always received the best infrastructure of any sort. The sad thing for me is that when, for example, Google says they will install free wifi in a community it gets blocked.

Segue: same with healthcare. No low cost healthcare for the low income!
posted by CrowGoat at 8:00 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I'm in a not terribly well off neighborhood but Cox rewired our area for digital cable back around 2000, on par with the rest of the city, so we were able to get high-speed over a decade and a half ago. But (not that I want it anymore but I still check sometimes just for kicks) we STILL can't get DSL. We're not in the boonies or anything. Seeing what some people go through, though, sometimes I'm just glad we can get high speed at all.
posted by azpenguin at 8:02 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I received a glossy flyer from a local internet provider with a cheerful woman jamming out to some internets on the front. The back said (verbatim)
12 Mbps Internet!
(may not be available in your area)
Thanks for letting me know!
posted by Wolfdog at 8:03 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


We just got FIOS in my NYC area 2 months ago—and I suspect it's because they're going to ramp up the gentrification around here shortly

You sure it's not the work of the Effe-Ten-Cinco?
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:08 AM on March 14 [12 favorites]


Regulation is bad for the market!
posted by latkes at 8:09 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Ugh, not surprising at all.

One of the things that makes this so sinister is just how much of the internet doesn't work on slow connections anymore - it's not even a matter of being patient, but of being shut out of a lot of content.

And yeah, it's unfair if you are shut out of Netflix and online gaming, but that's not all of it. Right now I'm thinking of a lot of the online resources my university uses, and the growing expectation that students will use them. Video lectures, for example. Collaborative projects hosted online. It can be frustrating or impossible to make use of these with slow internet.

Really, the way we have let this market develop without effective regulations to ensure fair, non-extortionate access should be a scandal.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:10 AM on March 14 [19 favorites]


The kneejerk "Well, actually..." response for this is probably something about how companies should be free to allocate their resources into areas where people can better afford to buy them, so that they can see a faster return on investment. Thing is, I'm willing to bet you dollars to doughnuts they deployed high speed to wealthy neighborhoods full of single family homes while overlooking lower income neighborhoods with substantially greater population density. Even with a lower percentage of occupants buying their services, they'd have paid off that infrastructure investment much more quickly if they'd targeted areas with a high percentage of apartments.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 AM on March 14 [8 favorites]


Municipal broadband is probably the best way to combat this and get equitable, affordable internet access to all the places that need it -- at least if there's enough money to make it happen in the first place.

Colorado requires that local governments hold elections if they want to offer internet service, and even with this expensive requirement, 95 municipalities and counties have voted for it over the past twelve years. Unfortunately, actually following through on providing service is harder than operating an election, so only a handful of communities have done so. It would be a good thing if the state legislature would repeal the law requiring these piecemeal elections so that it's easier for communities to try to provide internet service (and especially so they can band together to share the development expenses), but the bill introduced this session didn't go anywhere.

I'm irritated Ting picked Centennial for a fiber project instead of my small, dense, easy-to-permit town, but we haven't had a ballot referendum for internet service yet. I'm asking my mayor about this tonight, since it's not like the state's going to deal with this for us.
posted by asperity at 8:20 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


It probably is easier to install in new-build suburbs. Building in an old neighborhood, we got to see just how much interesting stuff is under the ground and on the poles here. Back in the day, no one recorded where the utilities went, or what was buried where. When our sewer backed up, the crisis become much more exciting when the city workers discovered their maps don't match the pipes under our street. The excavating contractor found unmarked gas lines in our front yard. We had a downed electrical wire that was sparking and arcing and no one's power was out - the power company guy said that type of wire is 100 years old. There's a newish library on our street and the director tells me they found all kinds of mysterious things when they excavated.

Despite the chaos here, AT&T does offer U-Verse to my neighborhood. I have had their service people out repeatedly. Their work is pretty sloppy. There are loose wires laying on the ground all over the place; they don't bury them they just scuff a few leaves over them to hide them. So it's not like, even now, they are keeping track of where their stuff is. I'm sure it's easier to work in a cornfield, than to deal with the mishmash left by the last guy in this built-up area.

I don't think it's an excuse for not serving poorer or mixed areas. Unfortunately they haven't been regulated properly in the past, and pulling things out of the pit of historical chaos takes time. But they need to get cracking on this, and not just throw up their hands.
posted by elizilla at 8:24 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]



Where to start...

(at work at the moment and gotta get some things done but want to add to the convo before it goes further, I'll stop by later).


Bill Callahan, I spoke with him a couple weeks ago at our local civic tech conference, is a good guy. He's been advocating for broadband access and for the computer labs that he coordinates for over 15 years (maybe also getting low-cost computers to people as well, but not 100% sure).

Also, here's a great review of this from September.

I'm pretty curious to see how Time Warner/Spectrum's internet offerings (the defacto cable TV/internet provider in the city of Cleveland) compares to AT&T..

If anyone is local to Cleveland and wants to work on this with Bill, I'll put you in touch with him.
posted by fizzix at 8:25 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


> Verizon has been happy to advertise Fios to everyone who lives in Baltimore City for years, but will they actually let us buy it?

We had this issue in my neighborhood in Philadelphia for a long time, I'm pretty sure I've ranted here at the idiocy of it before. I called Verizon to complain and got a sort of doublespeak party line about them focusing on the neighborhoods where they would have the most customers, not being in "outlying areas," and other code-word twaddle for poor neighborhoods. I laughed out loud and advised them to check their seriously whacked marketing research. (For Philadelphians: I live in Passyunk Square.)
posted by desuetude at 8:40 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


You're telling me that government sanctioned monopolies / duopolies, once granted their special status in return for them providing a public service, then do everything they can to provide only the most profitable version of that service, leaving the poor figuratively out in the cold?

Well, I never!
posted by tocts at 8:49 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


Wait, what's the poor area by Beachwood and Orange? Those are two of the nicest suburbs on the east side!

Oh, Highland Hills.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:49 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


When a coworker looked up his address on Google Fiber's service page and was told it was available, he attempted to sign up but was told he would need to arrange it through his apartment complex management. Which consequentially informed him that AT&T had "made arrangements" with the management company and so AT&T was the only broadband available to residents. "At a discount" in exchange for exclusive access to the complex.

AT&T's sign-up turns out to be rather evasive about various surcharges (mandatory equipment rental, and oh yeah you don't qualify for the discount rate unless you also lease a landline and/or TV channels), so coworker's paying somewhere around $85 a month compared to Google's $70 for sub-gigabit metered access. Well, the metering cap is lifted for the duration of the "special offer" but can be reimposed on customers deemed to be abusing it.
posted by at by at 9:16 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I think it is called a self serving prophesy.
That is where there is no demand because there is no supply, and there is no supply because there is no demand.
posted by Burn_IT at 10:13 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee - What's particularly thrilling is that AT&T promises me 6-12 mbps and their speed test always shows me getting like 6.74, 6.81, things around there ... on the low end of their contract-required speed.

AT&T ads are delivered at 12mbps...
posted by jim in austin at 10:17 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


at by: "When a coworker looked up his address on Google Fiber's service page and was told it was available, he attempted to sign up but was told he would need to arrange it through his apartment complex management. Which consequentially informed him that AT&T had "made arrangements" with the management company and so AT&T was the only broadband available to residents. "At a discount" in exchange for exclusive access to the complex.

AT&T's sign-up turns out to be rather evasive about various surcharges (mandatory equipment rental, and oh yeah you don't qualify for the discount rate unless you also lease a landline and/or TV channels), so coworker's paying somewhere around $85 a month compared to Google's $70 for sub-gigabit metered access. Well, the metering cap is lifted for the duration of the "special offer" but can be reimposed on customers deemed to be abusing it.
"

Well, that is how I ended up on Uverse. My building used to have Comcast, but when the annual contract renewal came up, Comcast tried to jack up the price. Knowing I would die in short order without an connection, I signed up with Uverse. Now I am kind of locked in, as I have a VoIP phone I really have no option for.
posted by Samizdata at 10:43 AM on March 14


We've got to regulate internet service providers as we do other public utility companies. Not that those regulations are necessarily enough, but it's a start.

This was happening in Tom Wheeler's FCC, but the Republicans are going after it full bore now. There's a Senate bill, a House bill, and a proposed (?) rule change at the FCC under the new weasel they've got in there to revert those changes, and in the case of the senate bill at least, to ensure that it cannot be fixed in the future.

Make no mistake that the changes going on right now in net neutrality and the pullback from common carrier status are going to be absolutely devastating in terms of accessibility, security, and privacy. Things have been really bad, and as soon as we started making some minor inroads to improving them, everything went to shit.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:36 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]


Compare the map of neighborhoods not wired for ATT VDSL with this map or this map of crime in Greater Cleveland. Maybe the ATT is dragging its feet about wiring certain neighborhoods because its installers fear (rightly or wrongly) that they're more likely to be assaulted in certain neighborhoods.
posted by Modest House at 3:36 PM on March 14


This is so annoying. When I moved into my place in a close-in city neighborhood, I was all excited to sign up with CenturyLink because they were offering 1 gigabyte per second speed here in Seattle. Which I definitely don't need, but I figured if that was their high-water mark, I would certainly be able to get some nice, robust internet from them for my work-from-home setup.

So I enter my new address to see what my option were: 7 mbps. 7! Just the absolute nerve of advertising speeds that were literally 140,000x faster than what many of your potential customers would actually be able to get - it's pretty staggering.

The other extremely obnoxious thing is that in parts of the city where they offer 20 or 40 mbps, that plan costs exactly the same as the one available to me that only offers 7 mbps. So I don't have the same service available as other, wealthier* parts of the city, but I do have the opportunity to pay the same amount for what service they do offer!

*The really ironic thing is that people moving into my neighborhood now, ie, people thinking about their ISP, are also pretty wealthy because this neighborhood is gentrifying at a breakneck speed. So it's not just unfair, it's bad business.
posted by lunasol at 5:19 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


This is my surprised face!
posted by dancestoblue at 11:04 PM on March 14


I live in one of the neighborhoods that first got Google fiber and you can get it choked down some for free. (5mbps) I can generally download a 90 minute movie or such from youtube in max 30 minutes, plenty fast enough for me. I'll stream some stuff from Amazon and it's totally no problem.

Our only high-speed option in my neighborhood used to be Time Warner cable. They were total scum, up til and including the day that Google wired us up; they (Time Warner) showed up whenever they wanted or not at all, and that after not even giving you a four hour window -- you'd be locked down a whole day. Two of my neighbors really never could get their problems sorted out, one of them basically was running about as fast as a phone line from 20 years ago.

But now, magically, Time Warner is all better, and they're all the time sending friendly advertisements to everybody, and so proud of the fact that they give you A Real Time when the happy, festive installer will show up with a big smile, and Oh Boy! you'll be so, so happy if you come back to Time Warner, and (toss into recycle bin).

Competition is the only way for these bums. I wish Time Warner ill.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:22 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Here's AT&T's response which doesn't even address the questions and concerns raised in the report.
posted by fizzix at 11:01 AM on March 15


Which consequentially informed him that AT&T had "made arrangements" with the management company and so AT&T was the only broadband available to residents. "At a discount" in exchange for exclusive access to the complex.

Prior to January, I would have suggested your coworker file a complaint with the FCC. Exclusivity agreements are no longer allowed. A lot of providers will still tell you to fuck right off because they don't want to extend their network to service a single building or complex, but if they are willing, it still might be worth a shot.

I'm in a bit of a shit situation myself. at&t is supposed to be able to provide 60Mbps here, but most of the pairs are riddled with bridge taps and other issues, so until they replace the distribution line that runs from the Uverse VRAD down the block, I'm stuck at 18Mbps. They could bump me up to 36, but they refuse to do it even though the pair I'm on will easily support that speed because they have decided that they won't sell 24 any more and anything higher they require pair bonding.

Last time I was on Uverse they weren't yet doing bonding and their speed tiers maxed out at 18Mbps, so me being 30 linear feet from the VRAD with a 100Mbps+ max sync rate helped not a bit.
posted by wierdo at 1:18 PM on March 15


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