Compared to its efforts in some other metro areas, AT&T has been very slow to roll out its gigabit home broadband upgrade, AT&T Fiber, in Cuyahoga County. But new FCC Form 477 data, released last week, suggests that the company finally got its home fiber deployment underway here in 2017.
Unfortunately, the geography of that deployment looks uncomfortably familiar.
According to the new FCC figures, almost 2,700 of the county’s 13,000+ Census blocks — about 20% — had AT&T’s gigabit fiber service available to at least one address by December 2017, compared to fewer than 800 blocks in December 2016. About a third of those Census blocks with newly deployed gigabit service were in the city of Cleveland. That’s progress, right?
Well… let’s take a look at the map.
Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Is AT&T in the process of redlining lower income Cleveland neighborhoods a second time? Are inner city residents who were excluded from the company’s upgrade to faster VDSL technology between 2008 and 2013, and relegated to old ADSL connections at much slower speeds (but the same monthly bills), now being demoted again — from second-class AT&T service to third-class?
We don’t know for sure. AT&T’s buildout of its fiber network is still a work in progress. The FCC data shown above is already a year old. We don’t know where AT&T has expanded the network in that year, or where the company plans to go next.
CYC has been told (but we can’t confirm, despite a formal public records request) that AT&T has asked the City of Cleveland for permits to build street cabinets for fiber installations in a few areas that didn’t get VDSL. Let’s hope that’s true.
We invite AT&T to share any information that provides a fuller or more accurate picture of the company’s recent or planned fiber rollout here. CYC will share anything we receive.
But based on what AT&T has told the FCC about its home fiber deployment as of a year ago, which is the best, most current information available to the public today — not to mention the company’s past investment decisions — there seems to be good reason to worry that Cleveland’s inner city communities face another round of digital redlining.