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Stop Broadband Redlining

It's no news to anyone that the United States is a nation of economic haves and have-nots. But up until recently, at least, when it came to access to telecommunications, we're all largely equal.

That's no longer the case. It's becoming increasingly clear that network providers are engaging in what's called broadband redlining, providing sophisticated, high-speed services and fiber-optics to white suburbs, while ignoring the less affluent who live in cities.

Here in Massachusetts where I live, Verizon Communications is rolling out a new fiber optic network in the upscale suburbs, but ignoring the city. In Chicago, inner-city clergymen claimed that SBC Communications similarly favored wealthy neighborhoods and ignored less-affluent ones when it deployed its high-speed fiber Project, Lightspeed. And in 2002, AT&T Broadband was sued in Florida for allegedly redlining high-speed broadband Internet service.

Nothing could be clearer: This should be illegal. Everyone, regardless of their economic condition or the color of their skin, deserves the same access to next-generation telecom services and fiber networks. Our economy is increasingly built on such services, and denying them to those less well-off will only ensure that they have less economic opportunity, and confines them to a telecommunication ghetto.

If service providers continue broadband redlining, it's time for Congress or the states to take action. The practice should be ended now.