AT&T and the Curious Case of Connect America Fund Plan
RingPlus News Service Los Angeles April 26th, 2017: In 2011, the FCC revealed what is known as the Connect America Fund plan. This plan overhauled the $8 billion federal budget set aside for rural and low-income phone customers. AT&T was one of the first to agree to expand its courage, in exchange for funding, and this week it has made good on its promise. On Tuesday, AT&T has announced that it has completed its first initial roll out for Georgia residents.
One of the main effects this plan is supposed to have is the expansion of business and creations of jobs. Since service is being distributed to rural areas, infrastructure and hardware needs to be installed in remote areas, as well as the influx of customers, leading to more employment from the service provider. Betsy Huber, president of the National Grange stated, “When you consider that farmers, ranchers and other rural residents are also small business owners, the need for high speed internet becomes obvious.”
AT&T plans to expand its coverage to many more states such as Alabama, California, Wisconsin, Mississippi and many more. Senior Vice President for AT&T, Eric Boyer, has said “Access to the internet is an important tool for advancing opportunities in communities. It creates economic growth, helps increase community engagement, and makes education possible.” The detailed FCC plan can be found here.
However, this statement seems contradictory to the behavior that AT&T has been giving residents in certain parts of Cleveland, Ohio. On Monday, April 24th the law firm, Parks Crump, had sent a letter to AT&T stating their intent to file a lawsuit if AT&T did not correct there “Redlining” practices on the low-income neighborhoods of Hough, Glenville and Stockyards. Redlining is the act of discriminating based on income, and has been recorded to be done in the past by ambulance providers, as well as insurance companies. Now AT&T is allegedly guilty of this practice as well. A report released by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance stated that residents of these communities have reported not having access to internet speeds above 3Mbps in over 10 years. AT&T also denied eligibility to a low-income internet programmed named Access, solely due to their lack of access of internet speed above 3Mbps.
AT&T responded with a statement that said “The report does not accurately reflect the investment we’ve made in bringing in faster internet to urban and rural areas across the US. While we are investing in broadband, we are also investing in technologies that will mitigate some of the infrastructure limitations.” The Parks Crump firm plans to look further into the NDIA report.