Slow AT&T service will block thousands of Cleveland, Detroit households from promised Access discounts

In a new post at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance blog, Angela Siefer describes her unsuccessful effort to persuade AT&T to remedy a major shortcoming of its “Access From AT&T” low-income discount program. The problem: $5-to-$10-a-month Access accounts are only available to SNAP recipients whose homes can get AT&T Internet connections at speeds of 3 mbps or more. This speed threshold, which AT&T has now refused to lower, will exclude tens of thousands of otherwise eligible households in AT&T-served areas, from inner-city Cleveland and Detroit to rural Mississippi, where new Internet service is limited to 1.5 mbps (download) or less.

Yes, you read that right. It turns out there are places in the heart of Cleveland and Detroit where the fastest new Internet service AT&T will offer at any price is 1.5 mbps or even 768 kbps.  And not just a few places. Data collected by the FCC via its Form 477 reporting process, and made available at the Census block level for the first time early this year, indicates that 1.5 mbps or 768 kbps is the maximum reported speed for AT&T’s current version of home DSL service (VDSL) in about one-fifth of all Cleveland and Detroit Census blocks.

Here’s that information in map form. (Hint: Click the little double arrow on the left side of each map to open it in full screen mode.)

Connect Your Community first took a hard look at this FCC data a few months ago, when we were trying to understand why some of the first eligible SNAP participants whom our partners helped to apply for Access were being told they couldn’t qualify, due to the service available at their addresses.  We’ve been surprised (to put it mildly) to learn that AT&T’s available Internet service is so slow, in such large parts of our lower income neighborhoods, that the Access program’s discount rate opportunity will be denied to thousands of our neighbors who need it the most.  We’re even more surprised that AT&T has declined to take the easy step of lowering its Access speed threshold to help remedy this injustice.

Stay tuned.  More to come.

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