AT&T gigabit fiber: Digital redlining again?

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.


  1. What about East Cleveland. There are areas that have no fiber optic cable. Citizens have been asking for this for a couple of years. Still not happening except in a few areas.

  2. That is messed up what AT&T is doing in the greater Cleveland area, where low income residents are paying the same price as more influential residents for internet service, yet low income residents are receiving inferior service. That is why I am glad I no longer use AT&T products. This year I disconnected my landline phone with AT&T, it was very expensive, and they charge a late fee if not paid on time. I do not like their internet service where I have to use phone filters. I use their competitors instead.

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