Cleveland Residents Take Legal Action Over AT&T's Alleged 'Redlining'

As promised
, Florida-based attorney Daryl Parks has filed a lawsuit against AT&T over its history of rolling out infrastructure upgrades on an unequal basis across different neighborhoods in Cleveland. Wealthier neighborhoods have seen their AT&T Internet access and speeds improve, poorer neighborhoods have not (or have seen only incremental and relatively more minor improvements). Bills paid in the different neighborhoods don't vary much, except for a limited deal that AT&T began offering in 2016.

Scene investigated the history behind Ohio's telecommunications laws and AT&Ts system roll-outs in a feature story earlier this year.

The complaint was filed yesterday with the FCC, alleging that AT&T violated an anti-discrimination clause in the commission's Title II consumer protections. Joanne Elkins, Hattie Lanfair, and Rachelle Lee, three black Cleveland residents, are the named complainants.

While this case will unfold in the FCC, the proceedings will still work much like a federal court. The complainants' goal, ultimately, is an injunction against AT&T that would prohibit this sort of "redlining" in metropolitan areas. (This sort of Internet disparity is seen in other cities, too, including Toledo, Dayton, Louisville, Detroit and Milwaukee. A Haas Institute study published in April alleges AT&T oversaw "digital redlining" in California.)

AT&T's response: "We do not redline. 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.”

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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