Home Technology Internet In Minneapolis, disparities in internet package speeds can depend on address

In Minneapolis, disparities in internet package speeds can depend on address

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In Minneapolis, disparities in internet package speeds can depend on address

A home in the Audubon Park neighborhood of northeastern Minneapolis, once federally zoned, pays $50 a month to CenturyLink for Internet service at speeds up to 80 Mbps.

Not far away, in a neighborhood that’s not outlined, that same $50 worth of CenturyLink buys high-speed fiber internet with speeds up to 200 Mbps.

Similar disparities have been found in other Minneapolis neighborhoods and cities across the country, according to data released and analyzed. by the non-profit organization Tech News, the Markup. But Minneapolis has “one of the most striking disparities” among 38 U.S. cities surveyed, the nonprofit found.

“Previously-lined addresses were offered the worst deals nearly eight times more often than previously better-rated areas” in Minneapolis, the report said. The group’s analysis focused on Minneapolis-based CenturyLink, the provider that offers the most fiber service in the city, but did not compare service offerings to other providers in the city.

According to the nonprofit, which analyzed more than 800,000 Internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink and CenturyLink, people in cities across the country who lived in homes in areas outlined in red were getting worse dollar-per-megabit Internet deals. It found that “all four routinely offered high base speeds of 200 Mbps or more in some neighborhoods for the same price as connections below 25 Mbps in others.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as 25 Mbps or more.

Redlining was a government-sponsored effort to segregate black families in certain neighborhoods run by the now-defunct Home Owners’ Loan Corp. were considered “undesirable”. life problems.

In formerly foreclosed parts of Minneapolis, the high cost of internet service or frustrations with the options available are driving some residents to simply miss it.

A Star Tribune analysis of data from the 2016-2020 American Community Survey found that households in formerly delineated areas in northern and central Minneapolis have the lowest rates of broadband cable, fiber, or DSL subscriptions and the highest rates of no internet service . These trends seep into historically “yellow-outlined” areas, or areas covered by the Home Owners’ Loan Corp. have been given a “C” as yet another warning against investments.

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In Hennepin County, more than 21,000 people have computers at home but no internet, the data shows.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, an FCC program that gives low-income families $30 a month for internet services and $75 a month for households on eligible tribal lands, helped Tia Williams and her four children get home broadband for the first time this year. to afford. Before learning about the vouchers, her family relied on Wi-Fi and hotspots in the shared building of her Uptown apartment. After school everyone wanted to use the internet at the same time.

“It was really stressful, honestly, not having access to the internet,” Williams said. “It affected a lot of different things for my family.”

The Markup’s findings were disappointing but not surprising to Minneapolis information technology director Dana Nybo, who hears technology concerns from community members through the city’s 311 system.

“I think COVID has done a very precise reckoning of what we need to do to really support people in the community,” Nybo said. “Everyone may have thought, ‘Oh, we have access to the internet,’ and we realized, What does that even mean? And what do you really need versus what you actually have.”

As a decades-long CenturyLink customer, the LaToya White household was offered $45 a month for 500 Mbps Internet download speed as part of their “Price for Life” plan. But when she ran her most recent internet speed test, she said, the meter wouldn’t go above 48 Mbps.

The slow speed makes it a challenge for her family to do activities that many take for granted: working from home, watching a show and doing homework. When the pandemic sent White’s kids home from school, she said, they relied on hotspots to get their jobs done.

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“One uses the cell phone, the other uses the box,” says White, who lives in a former red-outlined block in northeastern Minneapolis. “Streaming for my household is hard. You can’t play Netflix and Hulu.”

During the turmoil following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Ini Augustine saw how the digital divide could even be life-threatening when people needed real-time safety information. Augustine started Project Nandi, a non-profit organization that provides families with laptops, internet and tech support, when the community was hit hard by unrest and remote learning during the pandemic.

“This is a structural problem,” Augustine said. “This is not a black and white issue or even a technology issue. There are structural barriers built into the system they benefit from that prevent people from having fast internet.”

Over the past two years, Augustine has worked with more than 200 families, including some whose jobs or health have been impacted. missed work or telehealth appointments due to slow internet speeds.

Companies “were selling people a service that they were told was fast, but it wasn’t,” Augustine said. “They gave people access depending on where they lived and berated people from poor communities. In my opinion, they owe those people rebates, and they owe those people allowances.”

CenturyLink, which rebranded as Lumen Technologies in 2020, said in an email that the company does not engage in discriminatory practices, such as redlining. Spokesman Mark Molzen said Lumen does not enable services based on race or ethnicity and noted that it participates in affordability programs. The company did not respond to follow-up questions.

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“We are committed to helping close the digital divide and actively participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a $30 a month discount on the Internet,” Molzen said in an email.

Other service providers cited household density in their decisions, noting the high cost of maintaining older equipment used for slower speeds, according to the Markup.

In March, the FCC announced a research into digital discrimination after President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act of 2021 required the agency to combat digital discrimination and “promote equal access to broadband across the country, regardless of income level, ethnicity, race, religion or national origin,” according to a press release.

Minneapolis, Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Schools are partners in a coalition focused on increasing access to digital resources and literacy programs for economically disadvantaged residents and residents of color. To reach them, they are conducting pilot programs to install antennas on school and county sites in areas of lower connectivity and are using the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Soon, digital navigators will be on site all over the city — at schools or public housing, for example — to meet residents struggling with internet access, Nybo said.

Augustine dreams bigger. She imagines that one day she will create a black community broadband network.

People struggling with internet access, nonprofit leaders and other community members gathered on Thursday to learn more about digital stocks and the histories of other co-ops across the country.

“We allow Internet service monopolies because the Internet is not viewed as a utility as it should be,” Augustine said. “It should be like water. If you want to be a modern citizen of the world, you need high-speed internet. Otherwise, you’re automatically a second-class citizen.”

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