Three women from Cleveland, Ohio, have filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission against AT&T alleging that the telecommunications giant has been discriminating against low-income neighborhoods. In their complaint the women allege that the internet services offered to poor neighborhoods are at slower speeds than those offered to high-income areas.
“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,” says the complaint.
Among the areas listed in the complaint as being discriminated against with regards to internet speeds offered by AT&T include the Stockyards, Detroit-Shoreway, St. Clair-Superior, South Collinwood, Fairfax, Central, Glenville and Hough among others.
According to the attorney responsible for filing the complaint, Daryl Parks, high-speed internet access was like electricity which should made available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for such services. The complaint is seeking to compel the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a hearing with a view to looking into damages as well as to prohibit AT&T from engaging in discriminatory practices.
Elkins, one of the victims of the alleged discriminatory practices, revealed that she acquired security equipment worth about $1,500 which was rendered useless as a result of slow internet speeds. A daughter of one of the other victims who is a teacher claimed that she was unable to perform any work while in her mother’s house since the speeds are too low to download the homework assignments of her students. Inquiries have been made to AT&T concerning upgrading the internet service but representatives of the telecommunications giant have ruled that out. The last of the three women listed in the complaint claimed that her grandchildren were unable to play online games or stream videos due to the slow internet service.
According to the complaint there was an attempt by AT&T and the women to have the dispute settled but the talks fell apart. The executive vice president of AT&T’s regulatory affairs, Joan Marsh rejected the allegation that the firm was engaging in redlining practices and vowed to put up a vigorous defense.
Earlier in the year a report by Connect Your Community and National Digital Inclusion Alliance was released indicating that AT&T had failed in initiating efforts to enhance access to broadband in those Cleveland neighborhoods that suffer from high rates of poverty.