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Opinion | AT&T isn’t ‘digital redlining’ Detroit — we’re expanding access

A recent guest opinion column in Bridge Michigan titled “Detroit has a new redlining problem: Digital redlining” made unfortunate and inaccurate allegations about AT&T’s work to connect people in Detroit. We want to set the record straight.

David Lewis is president of AT&T Michigan. (Courtesy photo)

We agree that access to high-speed internet is critical to unlock possibilities, opportunities and innovations that enable people to live, learn, work and play. The pandemic has demonstrated the value of having ubiquitous, high speed, competitive wireless and wireline broadband networks in the U.S., and it also has shown the importance of achieving true universal broadband to ensure that all Americans are connected. We believe this objective is now realistically achievable with last year’s bi-partisan federal legislation dedicating unprecedented, once-in-a-generation funding to state and local governments to address broadband affordability, adoption and availability.

The author’s claim that “digital redlining is carried out by AT&T” is not accurate. The one source cited to support the allegation is analytically flawed.  We make deployment decisions based on a variety of neutral economic factors including the competitive landscape of an area and the cost of deployment. In Detroit, we invested nearly $150 million in our wired and wireless networks from 2019 to 2021, and our fiber deployment here has been equitable. Across our 21-state footprint, we have deployed fiber equitably to majority and minority populations, as well as to consumers across the economic spectrum. 

Also flawed is the claim that low-income communities of color in Michigan lack access to high-speed broadband. According to December 2020 FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment map data, more than 99 percent of Detroit residents have access to broadband speeds of at least 250/25 Mbps and 1 GB download speeds are available across most of the city.

AT&T is also driving down the cost of home internet for eligible low-income households to the best monthly rate possible – $0. This free option is made possible by combining a new plan from our low-cost Access from AT&T program with federal benefits from the Affordable Connectivity Program.

AT&T is committed to bridging the digital divide through investments in network upgrades and fiber deployment, and by participating in federal programs to increase affordability and community-based initiatives that foster greater digital adoption. We opened an AT&T Connected Learning Center in Detroit at Jefferson East, Inc. providing free high-speed internet, devices and educational resources. One of the nation’s largest employers of full-time union employees, AT&T is investing billions annually to upgrade its network and deploy fiber across our 21-state fiber footprint. When you add up all the places we serve, including Michigan, we’ve  deployed fiber-based broadband to about 18 million locations.

AT&T is working hard to connect more people to a world of new opportunities.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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