Internet Service Providers Must Prioritize Minority Communities

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Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $65 billion is being dedicated to bridging the digital divide, including a $30 monthly benefit for internet bills for low-income people, bringing us one step closer to ensuring that every American can connect.

There is only one problem: some large telecommunications companies are engaging in redlining, discrimination in access to high-speed Internet.

AT&T has perhaps the clearest record of “digital redlining” here in Illinois, as evidenced by the most recent cartography of its fiber availability in Chicago. AT&T’s fiber layout shows the company has prioritized upgrading its broadband technology to fiber in wealthier areas, while leaving low-income communities of color with outdated technology and slower that prevents them from accessing the digital resources they need.

A 2020 report from the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion and Communications Workers of America says this discrimination is also practiced by the company nationally, in all 21 AT&T states. The median income of households with fiber is 34% higher than in areas with only DSL (slower speeds).

Still, the practice is especially damaging here in the Chicago area. The city has a long and disturbing history of redlining — a term used to describe exclusionary tactics where real estate agents diverted investment from black neighborhoods to white neighborhoods. It destroyed generations of black wealth and is one of the best examples of institutional racism in the Windy City.

Now, given our growing reliance on the internet, communications companies that engage in the digital redlining of black communities could have a similar effect.

Broadband internet is a necessity. Students need it for class work. Grandparents need it to FaceTime with their grandkids. More and more, workers need it to be able to work from home.

Unfortunately, far too many people are still deprived of this vital resource and, as a result, find themselves at an unimaginable disadvantage. the FCC estimates that nearly 17 million students have not had access to the internet they need to function remotely during the pandemic.

We cannot let the greed of powerful corporations dictate whether low-income Illinois communities of color have access to vital digital resources.

A student’s level of education shouldn’t depend on whether big corporations view their neighborhood as a good return on investment. People with health issues shouldn’t miss out on access to telehealth services just because they live in Chicago’s South End and don’t have what companies consider enough money in their pockets to claim. worth serving.

We need some accountability, so I urge our attorney general to fully investigate the extent of this business practice or our legislature to ask the executives of any company taking part in this discriminatory practice, such as AT&T, to testify and explain why poor and black communities do not deserve a level playing field.

It’s time for our elected leaders to hold bad actors accountable for their years of discriminating against people of color.

Send letters to [email protected]

Tiffany Henyard is the Township Supervisor of Thornton and Mayor of Dolton.

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