Broadband 'Redlining' Issue Raised In Fiber Deployment

Broadband "redlining"--the deployment of network upgrades in upscale neighborhoods rather than in low-income urban areas--is becoming a hot issue, as telephone companies roll out advanced broadband technologies.

February 11, 2005

2 Min Read
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Broadband "redlining"--the deployment of network upgrades in upscale neighborhoods rather than in low-income urban areas--is becoming a hot issue, as telephone companies continue to roll out their advanced broadband technologies across the nation.

In the latest episode, Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey--a long-time crusader against all forms of redlining--has focused on Verizon Communications' Massachusetts fiber rollout, which has been targeted primarily at upscale, mostly white, suburban communities.

Markey, who hails from the working-class community of Malden, told the Boston Globe: "I would be very interested to see which communities are going to be on Verizon's next list of deployment to see whether places like Malden that have diverse populations and more moderate incomes are going to be provided with these competitive services."

Elsewhere in the nation, SBC Communications was recently charged by a group of Chicago inner-city clergymen with favoring upscale neighborhoods for deployment of its high-speed fiber Project, Lightspeed. Part of the debate centers on new "hands off" regulatory measures, which the telephone companies believe enable them to install fiber-optic networks without first obtaining local and state regulatory approval.

The telecommunications-redlining issue has a long history, and federal legislators, including Markey, made sure the issue was addressed in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Markey, who is the senior ranking Democrat on the U.S. House telecommunications subcommittee, is monitoring the issue, not only in his district, but nationally.The latest Massachusetts issue was prompted by Verizon's move this week to deploy its advanced fiber-optic network in four upscale Boston suburbs. The Boston Globe pointed out that Verizon still hasn't revealed any plans to install the coveted fiber service in Boston.

A Verizon spokesman pointed out that fiber deployment is faster and easier in the suburbs, noting that the firm plans to provide fiber also to urban customers "without question, unequivocally." An urban community that will receive fiber will be named soon, Verizon said.

SBC—which, like Verizon, is rolling out TV-capable fiber to compete with cable companies--said the redlining charges leveled against it were "a red herring." The firm said it will target "high-value customers" wherever they are, with no regard to race or income.

Earlier, in 2002, AT&T Broadband had been charged in a class-action lawsuit in Florida for redlining high-speed broadband Internet service. The firm denied the charges and said it would vigorously oppose the suit.

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