Customers in poorer, less white communities getting worse broadband deals

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has picked up a story from The Markup on disparities in broadband deals within the same city…

The Markup gathered and analyzed more than 800,000 internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, Earthlink, and CenturyLink in 38 cities across America and found that all four routinely offered fast base speeds at or above 200 Mbps in some neighborhoods for the same price as connections below 25 Mbps in others.

The neighborhoods offered the worst deals had lower median incomes in nine out of 10 cities in the analysis. In two-thirds of the cities where The Markup had enough data to compare, the providers gave the worst offers to the least white neighborhoods.

These providers also disproportionately gave the worst offers to formerly redlined areas in every one of the 22 cities examined where digitized historical maps were available. These are areas a since-disbanded agency created by the federal government in the 1930s had deemed “hazardous” for financial institutions to invest in, often because the residents were Black or poor. Redlining was outlawed in 1968.

The article offers provider explanation for the difference, which is a mix of providers saying it can be more expensive to maintain the older infrastructure and reminding the researchers that they have low income pricing. Neither approach seems satisfying.

Minneapolis has experienced these disparities…

Addresses in redlined areas of 15 cities from Portland to Atlanta were offered the worst deals at least twice as often as areas rated “best” or “desirable.” Minneapolis, which is served by CenturyLink, displayed one of the most striking disparities: Formerly redlined addresses were offered the worst deals almost eight times as often as formerly better-rated areas.

There are a lot of contributing factors here two of those noted in the article…

Internet prices are not regulated by the federal government because unlike telephone service, internet service is not considered a utility. As a result, providers can make their own decisions about where they provide service and how much to charge. The FCC declined a request to comment on the findings.


“That’s the big piece,” said Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, which advocates for broadband access. “Folks don’t know that they’re being screwed.”

It has been a debate for decades, but we all learned during the pandemic that that the Internet is not a luxury. Not having adequate broadband limits access to healthcare, jobs and education. Not having adequate broadband is a huge disadvantage and as Angela says, even more so if you think the playing field is level.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Funding, MN, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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