Since 2017, AT&T has been called out for digital redlining in Cleveland and Detroit. Now, Dr. Brian Whitacre from Oklahoma State University has compared 477 data from the company to poverty levels in Dallas County, Texas, and discovered similar findings. He entered into the project under the request of Attorney Darryl Parks, who filed the complaint against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against AT&T relating to digital redlining in Cleveland.
Dr. Whitacre provided a statement of his findings to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to be published in full. Read his findings here.
In his POTs and PANs blog, Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting analyzed Whitacre’s findings. AT&T offers Fiber-to-the Home (FTTH), VDSL, and ADSL2 or ADSL2+, which all provide dramatically different speeds. As Dawson summed up:
It’s worth noting before going further that the… speed differences, while dramatic, [don’t] tell the whole story. The older ADSL technology has a dramatic drop in customer speeds with distances and speeds are also influenced by the quality of the copper wires. Dr. Whitaker noted that he had anecdotal evidence that some of the homes that were listed as having 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) of 6 Mbps might have speeds under 1 Mbps.
Dr. Whitaker then overlaid the broadband availability against poverty levels in the county. His analysis started by looking at Census blocks have at least 35% of households below the poverty level. In Dallas County, 6,777 census blocks have poverty rates of 35% or higher.
The findings were as follows:
- Areas with high poverty were twice as likely to be served by ADSL – 56% of high-poverty areas versus 24% of other parts of the city.
- VDSL coverage was also roughly 2:1 with 25% of areas with high poverty served by VDSL while 48% of the rest of the city had VDSL.
- Surprisingly, 19% of census blocks with high poverty were served with fiber. I’m going to conjecture that this might include large apartment complexes where AT&T delivers one fiber to the whole complex – which is not the same product as fiber-to-the-home.
While the 477 data that Whitacre relied on was from November 2017, Dawson notes that it isn’t likely that the telecom company has upgraded its DSL in poverty-stricken areas since then. The national company has recently wrapped up deploying fiber in limited Dallas neighborhoods.
Dawson quotes Whitacre, who writes in his report:
“The analysis for Dallas demonstrates that AT&T has withheld fiber-enhanced broadband improvements from most Dallas neighborhoods with high poverty rates, relegating them to Internet access services which are vastly inferior to the services enjoyed by their counterparts nearby in the higher-income Dallas suburbs…”