AT&T hit with second complaint of discrimination against low-income neighborhoods

AT&T hit with second complaint of discrimination against low-income neighborhoods
© Getty

A prominent civil rights attorney is accusing AT&T of discriminating against low-income minority communities within Detroit in a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Monday.

The complaint is the second in as many months from Daryl Parks, a lawyer known for having represented the family of Trayvon Martin after the black 17-year-old was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. Last month, Parks filed a similar complaint against AT&T on behalf of Cleveland residents.

Both filings accuse the telecommunications giant of withholding quality internet service from minority neighborhoods with high poverty rates.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Monday complaint alleges that AT&T is responsible for a “pattern of long-term, systematic failure to invest in the infrastructure required to provide equitable, mainstream Internet access to residents of the central city (compared to the suburbs) and to lower-income city neighborhoods.”

Asked for comment, an AT&T spokesman referred to a statement the company put out in response to the August complaint.

“We do not redline,” Joan Marsh, AT&T’s chief regulatory and external affairs officer, said in the statement. “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unparalleled. Our investment decisions are based on the cost of deployment and demand for our services and are of course fully compliant with the requirements of the Communications Act. We will vigorously defend the complaint filed today.”

The Cleveland complaint relied on a March study conducted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and Connect Your Community, which detailed how the city’s poorer residents lack access to download speeds that are widely available to residents in more affluent nearby suburbs.

The complaint filed on Monday cited a similar analysis of the Detroit area. It found that 41 percent of the census blocks within the city had access to the highest tiers of fiber internet technologies compared with 81 percent of the remaining census blocks in Wayne County.

The average poverty rate in the census blocks with the highest internet speeds is 5.5 percent while the county average is 25.5 percent, the study found.

Parks requested that the FCC conduct an investigation into the allegations and promised to keep the pressure on AT&T.

"Unfortunately, AT&T’s arrogance and blatant disregard for low-income minority communities do not end with Detroit or Cleveland,” Parks said in a statement. “We are seeing a very discouraging pattern across the country. There are more cities, states and complainants to come."