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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 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.

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