Tag: "low-income"

Posted October 18, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

In Detroit, AT&T is facing a formal FCC complaint accusing the telecom giant of deploying discriminatory “digital redlining” tactics. This is the second such complaint filed against the telecommunications giant since the first of the year.

Demanding Equality in Connectivity

The complaint filed by civil rights attorney Daryl Parks says the FCC violated the Communications Act which forbids unjust and unreasonable discrimination. A month earlier, Parks filed a similar complaint on behalf of three Cleveland residents. In both instances, Parks and community members maintain that AT&T is withholding high-speed Internet from minority neighborhoods that have higher poverty rates.

These complaints fall under Title II of the Communications Act, which contains not only net neutrality rules but important consumer protections regarding discrimination. Title II SEC. 202. [47 U.S.C. 202] (a) clearly specifies:

It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.

The first complaint filed in Cleveland last March was prompted by a report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and... Read more

Posted September 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

As fall sets in, the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB) is still working on choosing a buyer for the Vermont city’s municipal network. The review of the four semi-finalists continues, concerned people express their opinions and BT’s work benefits the community.

High-Speed For Low-Income

In August, BT officials announced that they would be the first ISP in the state of Vermont to offer high-speed Internet to low-income residents through the federal Lifeline program. Lifeline provides a $9.25 monthly credit for qualifying households; BT will be offering symmetrical 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) service for $9.95 per month, leaving the balance for subscribers.

According to BT General Manager Stephen Barraclough, BT is able to participate in the program due to previous upgrades to the infrastructure:

“Because we have a gigabit network, because over the past three, four, five years we’ve essentially swapped out the majority of equipment that’ll allow a thousand meg to go to every home we have lots and lots of equipment that we’ve actually taken off the side of homes that is more than capable of delivering more than 25 meg symmetrical.  We have lots and lots of routers that can still be used. So if you look at it from a marginal cost perspective, how can we afford to do this, really there’s very little incremental out-of-pocket cost over and above what we already have.”  

Surpassing Goals

August was also an exceptional month for subscriber numbers at BT. In addition to reaching a new height for the number of subscribers added in one month, BT eclipsed their original goal of 7,000 total subscribers. As of the end of August, the network served 7,136 members of the Burlington community.

On their website, BT celebrated with this message for the community:

This amazing level of growth is a historical achievement for Burlington Telecom. We owe special thanks and gratitude to those who make this all possible, our customers – those who stood by us in BT’s darkest days, those who left but then came back, and those growing numbers who have been willing to give BT a chance.... Read more

Posted September 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

Large, corporate providers like AT&T have to make shareholders happy, which is why they shy way from investing in regions where they don’t expect much profit. Routinely, those areas include sparsely populated rural communities and urban neighborhoods traditionally considered low-income. Often low-income neighborhoods also include a high percentage of people of color. Attorney Daryl Parks of ParksCrump, LLC, recently filed suit with the FCC on behalf of three residents in Cleveland who are victims of AT&T's "digital redlining."

The Data Tells The Story

In March, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and Connect Your Community (CYC) released a report on digital redlining in low-income neighborhoods in Cleveland. “Digital redlining” refers to AT&T’s investments in infrastructure, which improve connectivity in areas where they serve, except for neighborhoods with high poverty rates. CYC and NDIA analyzed form 477 data submitted by the telecommunications company and noticed a pattern. The revelations in that report helped the plaintiffs understand their situation and choose to ask the FCC to look deeper into AT&T's questionable business practices.

The event that inspired the analysis was the AT&T DirecTV merger. As part of the merger, AT&T agreed to create a low-cost Internet access program for customers under a certain income level. The speed tier was only 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) download, but AT&T infrastructure investment in Cleveland lower income neighborhoods was so outdated, residents could not obtain those minimal speeds. As a result, they were deemed ineligible for the program.

The Case

The complainants are three African-American residents in Cleveland’s lower income neighborhoods who can’t take advantage of the affordable program mandated by the merger because they can only access speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps download or less. Without the infrastructure to connect at higher capacity, they’ve ended up paying higher rates for slower Internet access.

In a press release on the complaint, Parks stated:

As a result of the ineffectual and substandard quality level of speed, the women’s [residents’] children cannot... Read more

Posted August 2, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Mason Carroll and Preston Rhea join Christopher Mitchell on the show to talk about their work at Monkeybrains, an urban wireless Internet Service Provider. Listen to the audio here.

Mason Carroll: Every single person needs to have their own Internet connection. This is not just like, "Oh, I can sort of get the building-wide Wi-Fi as I stand near my front door." No. You should have your own Internet connection that you can plug in, and watch TV, or set up a computer, or to do your work. That's really what digital quality is.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Episode 264 takes us to San Francisco, home to the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Monkeybrains. Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll from the Internet service provider are here to tell us about the local company, the services they provide in the Bay Area, and the work they're doing to chip away at the digital divide. Learn more about the company at Monkeybrains.net. As a reminder, this conversation with Preston and Mason is commercial free, but our work at ILSR requires funding. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you have already contributed, thank you. Now, here's Christopher with Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll, from Monkeybrains.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Joining me today is Preston Rhea, Senior Field Engineer for Monkeybrains, an ISP in California. Welcome to the show.

Preston Rhea: Thanks Chris, a pleasure to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And we also have Mason Carroll, Lead Engineer for Monkeybrains. Welcome to the show as well.

Mason Carroll: Yeah, thanks a lot.

Christopher Mitchell: So, I think the first question is, monkey brains, I remember running into those in a Harrison Ford movie a long time ago. What is Monkeybrains in San Francisco?

Preston Rhea: Monkeybrains is a local Internet service provider. We're a... Read more

Posted August 1, 2017 by christopher

After we saw April Glaser's article on a local San Francisco ISP connecting low-income housing to high-quality Internet access, we knew we wanted to learn more. Preston Rhea is the Senior Field Engineer for Monkey Brains and someone we knew from his work with the Open Technology Institute at New America. He joins us with Mason Carroll, Lead Engineer for Monkey Brains, to explain what they are doing in Hunters Point and more broadly across San Francisco.

Monkey Brains delivers Internet access primarily via high-capacity fixed-wireless links to buildings with multiple tenants. Working with the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, they are delivering gigabit access to low-income housing units at Hunters Point. 

Preston and Mason discuss the process, the challenges, the long-term plan, and more. In particular, they discuss why good wiring in each building is important for ensuring high-quality access to each household rather than just relying on common Wi-Fi access points around the buildings. 

Silicon Beat also covered this story.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne... Read more

Posted June 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

The City and Parish of Baton Rouge recently released a Request for Information (RFI) as a way to seek out partners interested in helping them improve local connectivity. Responses are due August 4.

Vulnerable Residents A Priority

According to the RFI, reliable connectivity is not consistent or affordable in many areas of the community where populations need it most. Unemployment is higher than the national average and the community has approximately 26 percent of city residents and 18 percent of parish residents living in poverty. Community leaders want to use the network infrastructure to bring more opportunity to people living in the most poverty-stricken areas of the City-Parish. Economic development, better educational opportunities, and better connectivity at home are only a few of the goals Baton Rouge intends to meet.

As part of the vision described in the RFI, City-Parish officials point out that they want a tool that will enable citizens to be participants in an updated economy, not just consumers of a new data product. Some of the factors they prioritize for their network is that it be community-wide, open access, financially sustainable, and offer an affordable base-level service.  The network must offer gigabit capacity.

Baton Rouge intends to ensure lower income residents participate in the benefits that will flow from the investment; they are not interested in working with partner who doesn’t share that vision. From the RFI:

The City-Parish intends to offset service costs for its most vulnerable residents through a subsidy program that will allow certain portions of the population to purchase service at a discounted rate. We expect respondents to this RFI to be prepared to build to and support those customers—many of who may never previously have had a broadband connection. This initiative may also entail the Partner(s) sharing cost and risk associated with providing low-cost or no-charge service to some customers.

Baton Rouge

Some of the area’s large employers include the Exxon Mobil Refinery, Nan Ya Plastics, and Dow Chemical. There is also an emerging tech industry that community officials want to nurture with better connectivity. Louisiana State University (LSU) and Tulane University have medical campuses and there are nursing... Read more

Posted May 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporations (MBC), a broadband cooperative with member communities in Virginia, recently announced that a new project will bring Internet access to students at home to help close the “homework gap” in Charlotte and Halifax counties.

Homework At Home

Approximately half of the K-12 students in the two southern counties don’t have Internet access at home, interfering with their ability to hone the skills they need for future success. To address the issue, MBC and its partner Microsoft obtained funding from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and will implement the project which reach 1,000 households and approximately 3,000 students. Students will be able to tap into their schools’ networks to access online assignments and resources from home. The service will be free.

The project is an expansion of a pilot program based on white space technology, which we’ve written about before. White space technology has been used in similar projects by libraries in New York, North Carolina, Colorado, and Mississippi to extend Internet access to communities where people have limited access. White space technology isn’t interrupted by dense forests or hills, so works in the Halifax and Charlotte county terrain.

Better Connectivity, Better Economy

MBC formed in 2004 as an open access network, funded by the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The network also received American Recovery and Reinvestment Award (ARRA) funding in order to connect schools and community anchor institutions in southern Virginia and to extend the reach of the network even further. The network now consists of more than 1,800 miles in 31 counties.

The presence of better connectivity has helped spur economic development to the tune of at least 1,100 jobs and $2.1 billion in private investment. In addition to attracting a new Microsoft data center, the network has helped... Read more

Posted May 16, 2017 by christopher

Some time ago, when speaking with Joshua Breitbart, the Senior Advisor for Broadband to the New York City CTO Miguel Gamiño, he mentioned to me that any subset of the issues they face with regard to improving Internet access in New York City is itself a massive issue. Joshua joins us to elaborate on that challenge and an exciting project that points to the way to solving some of their problems on episode 254 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. 

We talk about Queensbridge Connected, a partnership to ensure people living in low-income housing have access to broadband Internet connections. We also discuss how their responsibility does not end merely with making Wi-Fi available, but actually helping people be prepared to use the connection safely.

Joshua offers an important perspective on the challenges in large urban areas to make sure policy is fully responsive to local needs by ensuring residents are a part of the process and solution. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted March 15, 2017 by htrostle

A new report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community concludes that the telecom giant AT&T has redlined low-income neighborhoods in Cleveland. The company has cherry-picked higher-income neighborhoods for new technology investments and skipped over neighborhoods with high-proverty rates.

AT&T’s Digital Redlining, uses publicly available data from the FCC and the American Community Survey to expose how AT&T has failed to invest in low-income communities in Cleveland.

See With Your Own Eyes

Read the report and explore the interactive maps on digitalinclusion.org. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community spent six months uncovering how AT&T has systematically passed over communities with high poverty rates. The five maps paint a stark picture of the digital divide. 

logo-CYC.png

The extent of AT&T’s failure only came to light after the AT&T and DirecTV merger. As part of the merger, AT&T had to create an affordable Internet access program for low-income residents. The lowest speed tier in the program was 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) download for $5, but many low-income communities in Cleveland were considered ineligible; infrastructure in their communities only allowed access to speeds that maxed out at about 1.5 Mbps download. (Read more in "AT&T Gets Snagged in Giant Loophole Attempting to Avoid Merger Responsibility")

Public Data Can Share Some Insights 

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community noticed a pattern and began investigating. The FCC Form 477 data used in the report provides maximum speeds and technology by each census block, which typically overstates the quality of service actually available to households.

We've also used the FCC Form 477 data in our research and can attest to how... Read more

Posted January 24, 2017 by htrostle

In December 2016, the Free Press released the extensive report Digital Denied: The Impact of Systemic Racial Discrimination on Home-Internet Adoption. In the 225-page document, Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner dove into the numbers on race and the digital divide

The report provides a qualitative analysis of the digital divide's disproportionate impact people of color. Turner provides a number of policy solutions addressing both home Internet access and mobile Internet access.

Home Internet Adoption: A Continuing Divide

The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to information technologies and those who do not. Analyzing both U.S. Census Bureau data and FCC deployment data, Turner found that:

While 81 percent of Whites and 83 percent of Asians have home internet (counting wired and wireless subscriptions alike as “home” access), only 70 percent of Hispanics, 68 percent of Blacks, 72 percent of American Indian/Alaska Natives, and 68 percent of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders are connected at home.

Even after accounting for differences in income, education, age, geography, and job status, communities of color have not adopted high-speed Internet services at the same rate as White folks. There remained a gap of six to eight percent between Hispanic, Black, or Native American households and White households.

Mobile-Internet Adoption: Model for Possible Solutions

Turner, however, noted that mobile Internet adoption did not sustain this same rate of digital divide. In some cases, low-income households of color have equal or higher levels of adoption than low-income White households. Explaining the difference between the adoption rates for home Internet service and mobile Internet service, Turner credited the wireless marketplace’s competitive prices and the prepaid or resold services offered.

The report points to three policy goals that are further broken into several concrete actions that local, state, and federal officials can take.... Read more

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