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AT&T's Slow 1.5Mbps Internet In Poor Neighborhoods Sparks Complaint To FCC (arstechnica.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T is facing a complaint alleging that it discriminates against poor people by providing fast service in wealthier communities and speeds as low as 1.5Mbps in low-income neighborhoods. The formal complaint filed today with the Federal Communications Commission says that AT&T is violating the Communications Act's prohibition against unjust and unreasonable discrimination. That ban is part of Title II, which is best known as the authority used by the FCC to impose net neutrality rules. But as we've explained before, Title II also contains important consumer protections that go beyond net neutrality, such as a ban on discrimination in rates, practices, and offerings of services.

"This complaint, brought by Joanne Elkins, Hattie Lanfair, and Rachelle Lee, three African-American, low-income residents of Cleveland, Ohio alleges that AT&T's offerings of high-speed broadband service violate the Communications Act's prohibition against unjust and unreasonable discrimination," the complaint says. AT&T is not immune to the ban on discrimination "merely because its discrimination is based on investment decisions," the complaint also says.

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AT&T's Slow 1.5Mbps Internet In Poor Neighborhoods Sparks Complaint To FCC

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  • Bwahaaaaaaaa-hahaaaaaaaa

  • Would these communities get higher bandwidth by using 3G or 4G? Sounds like an opportunity to do some mesh networking if ATT could care to spin this, at least, for the PR value.

    My first broadband was 1M/100Kb and I could study and do lots of things, even start a small business, then again this was 2006 and the web was lighter and simpler. It was worth the time to leave most videos buffer for a bit on Youtube, you could get content!

    Now I have 60/40 Mb fiber and while I really appreciate the upload speed, the

    • I'd say 5/2Mb should be the very minimum for the web today.

      Speaking as a WISP customer who has played around in these single-digit speeds for a decade now, 5 Mbps is actually too little. 6 Mbps is the point at which I stopped having regular problems with streaming video. Yes, I have asked services which care to give me a degraded stream right out of the gate.

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @01:15AM (#55080811)

    Have AT&T lobby the FCC to define 1.5Mb/s as High Speed Internet. Like they did to change the definition of high speef from 25 to 10 Mb/s.

    Once enough money has changed hands, everyone will be satisfied.

      Except of course the people who have to download everything they want to watch or access with a day or so wait for the download to complete.

  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @04:59AM (#55081283)

    Poor people nowadays don't have home computers - they have cell phones.

    Which, even for the lowest-price plans, have better data speeds than 1.5 mbps. And no, they're not all bandwidth-starved.

    (I was in a crappy part of New Orleans recently and was getting 50 mbps on my phone... which didn't need that much to stream videos, by a long shot.)

  • While AT&T is picky about where it deploys its high speed services*, if this lawsuit happens, where do you draw the line ?

    Do you sue X for not building a local store in your neighborhood ?
    Perhaps Y for not having local franchises of your favorite restaurant ?

    *AT&T is picky about where it deploys high speed services because they know that the number of households that will be able to afford or will use said service will not justify the cost of its deployment in the first place. Contrary to popular b

    • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

      While AT&T is picky about where it deploys its high speed services*, if this lawsuit happens, where do you draw the line ?

      Do you sue X for not building a local store in your neighborhood ? Perhaps Y for not having local franchises of your favorite restaurant ?

      In your example, X and Y are not contractually obligated to provide service in your area. That was the deal with the telcos, "We'll grant you a monopoly (and give you a shit pile of money) if you agree to provide service to everybody"

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @10:02AM (#55082879) Homepage

    The telecoms, do this for financial reasons, understandably. A low income neighborhood is less likely to be able to afford the higher tiers of internet. However, the government knows this, and has enabled massive subsidies for decades for just this reason. The number of incentives, fees, tax.

    The telecoms benefit from the extra $$$ but rarely put any good faith into the efforts.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @12:28PM (#55084213) Homepage Journal

    this seems like redlining [wikipedia.org].

    And that has cost some banks money. Let's see if this meets the courts' tests for redlining, and how much they may force AT&T to both build out and actually offer/provide equally capable services to all customers regardless of location... Fining them is not a solution, and being forced to build is a tacit fine, not allowing them to use excessive fees for inadequate services and poor physical plants to subsidize services in apparently more affluent locations.

  • "merely because its discrimination is based on investment decisions"

    At some point this framing of the word "discrimination" sort of devalues the concept.

    When even logical business decisions are pushed under that umbrella, they serve as distractions from actual cases of bigoted discrimination.

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