AT&T’s “response” to redlining report isn’t responsive

Courtesy of WEWS-Channel 5, here’s the complete response of AT&T’s Senior Public Relations Manager, Holly Hollingsworth, to “AT&T’s Digital Redlining of Cleveland”:

Access to the internet is essential, which is why we’ve continuously invested in expanding service and enhancing speeds.

The report does not accurately reflect the investment we’ve made in bringing faster internet to urban and rural areas across the U.S. While we are investing in broadband, we’re also investing in technologies that will mitigate some of the infrastructure limitations.

Some additional information that may provide helpful background: AT&T invested $135 billion in its wireless and wired networks between 2012 and 2016 when you combine capital and acquisitions of wireless spectrum and operations — during this period, AT&T invested more in the U.S. than any other public company.

We are also conducting technology trials over fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave and G.fast technologies to deliver greater speeds and efficiencies within our copper and fiber networks. (In 5g Evolution release from Jan. 4, 2016)

In 2016, we began trialing Fixed Wireless Internet (FWI) service in several states. We plan to begin offering FWI in mid-2017 in areas where we accepted FCC Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) support. We expect to reach more than 400,000 locations by the end of 2017 across the 18 states where we accepted CAF II funds, most of which will get internet access for the first time. By the end of 2020, we plan to reach 1.1 million locations in those 18 states. (In 5g Evolution release from Jan. 4, 2016)

We’ve invested nearly $1.5 billion in our Ohio wireless and wired networks during 2013-2015, with more than $325 million of that in Cleveland.

This response by AT&T doesn’t actually question either the data presented by CYC and NDIA, or the general conclusion of our report: That AT&T systematically bypassed most lower-income Cleveland neighborhoods in its deployment of mainstream Fiber To The Node technology for home Internet and video service between 2008 and 2014, leaving residents of those neighborhoods stuck with older, slower ADSL2 service whose maximum download capability is often as slow as 6 mbps, 3 mbps or even 768 kbps.

In fact, Ms. Hollingsworth kind-of-sort-of confirms our point with her backhanded acknowledgment of “Infrastructure limitations” that will supposedly be “mitigated” by new technology investment, some day.

Of course, our analysis doesn’t question the size of AT&T’s overall investments, in Ohio or nationwide. But why did the executives managing deployment of fiber lines from AT&T’s central offices to thousands of neighborhood nodes — certainly a big investment — decide to exclude the four central offices serving the entire northeast side and much of the near West Side of Cleveland?  Ms. Hollingsworth hasn’t addressed this central issue.

We don’t know whether AT&T really invested $325 million “in Cleveland” between 2013 and 2015 (as opposed to, say, in the Cleveland region, or in “greater Cleveland”). But we do know that it wasn’t invested in bringing Fiber To The Node home broadband technology to neighborhoods like Hough, Glenville, South Collinwood, Stockyards or Detroit-Shoreway.

The rest of AT&T’s “response” — trials of 5G technology, investments in rural areas subsidized by the Federal Connect America Fund — is simply an attempt to change the subject.

The subject is: Why did AT&T, which promised to deploy a new generation of residential broadband technology to communities throughout its Ohio service area in exchange for the General Assembly’s elimination of municipal cable oversight in 2007, decide not to include most of the city of Cleveland — specifically, the city’s less affluent neighborhoods — in that deployment?

CYC and NDIA have said that the evidence points to economic redlining. AT&T response does not rebut either the evidence, or our interpretation of it.

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