Internet package speed differences in Minneapolis may vary by address

A home in the Audubon Park neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis, once redlined by federal agencies, pays CenturyLink $50 a month for Internet service with speeds up to 80 Mbps.

In a faraway, non-redline neighborhood, the same $50 to CenturyLink buys high-speed fiber internet with speeds up to 200Mpps.

Similar disparities were found in other Minneapolis neighborhoods, as well as cities across the country, according to data released and analyzed by Markup, a technology news nonprofit. The nonprofit found Minneapolis had “one of the most striking disparities” among the 38 U.S. cities surveyed.

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

People living in homes in red-lined areas in cities across the country have worse per-megabit internet deals, according to the nonprofit, which analyzed more than 800,000 internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink and CenturyLink. It found that “all four routinely offered fast 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 25Mp/s or more.

Redlining, black families now defunct Homeowners Credit Corp. was a government-sponsored effort to segregate special neighborhoods deemed “undesirable” by Although the practice was banned in 1968, the effects still linger, affecting home ownership, education and other qualifications. – life problems.

In formerly red-lined areas of Minneapolis, the high cost of internet service or dissatisfaction with available options means some residents are simply left out.

A Star Tribune analysis of 2016-20 American Community Survey data found that households in formerly red-lined areas of north and central Minneapolis had the lowest percentages of cable, fiber or DSL broadband subscriptions and the highest percentages without internet service. These trends are another warning against investing in historically “yellow” areas or Homeowners Credit Corp. spread to areas rated “C” by

More than 21,000 people in Hennepin County have a computer at home but no Internet.

The Affordable Connection Program, an FCC program that provides $30 a month for internet service to low-income families and $75 a month to households on eligible tribal lands, helped Tia Williams and her four children get home broadband for the first time this year. Before she learned about vouchers, her family relied on her Uptown apartment’s shared building Wi-Fi and hotspots. After class, everyone wanted to use the Internet at the same time.

“Honestly, not having access to the Internet was very stressful,” Williams said. “It affected a lot of different things for my family.”

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

“I think that COVID has created a real accurate account of what we need to do to really support people in the community,” Nybo said. “Everybody could have thought, ‘Oh, we have access to the Internet,’ and we realized what does that really mean? And what do you really need with what you actually have.”

As a CenturyLink customer for decades, LaToya White’s family was offered $45 a month for 500 Mbps Internet download speeds as part of its Price for Life plan. But when he ran his latest internet speed test, he said the meter wouldn’t go above 48 Mbps.

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

“One uses a cell phone; one uses a little box,” said White, who lives on a formerly red-lined block in northeast Minneapolis. “Streaming is hard for my family. You can’t play Netflix and Hulu.”

In 2020, during the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd, Ini Augustin saw that the digital divide could become life-threatening when people needed real-time security information. Augustine started Project Nandi, a non-profit organization that provides laptops, internet and technical support to families during the pandemic when the community is greatly affected by unrest and distance education.

“It’s a structural issue,” Augustine said. “It’s not a black-and-white issue or even a technology issue. There are structural barriers built into the system that they’re making a profit from, which discourages people from having high-speed Internet.”

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

The companies “sold people a service that was told it was high-speed, and it wasn’t,” Augustine said. “They’ve given people access based on where they live, and they’ve put a red line on people in poor communities. I think they owe those people concessions and compensation to those people.”

CenturyLink, which rebranded as Lumen Technologies in 2020, said in an email that the company does not discriminate like redlining. Spokesman Mark Molzen said Lumen does not provide services based on race or ethnicity and noted its participation in affordable programs. The company did not respond to follow-up questions.

“We are committed to helping bridge the digital divide and actively participate in the Affordable Connection Program, which offers a $30 per month discount on internet service,” Molzen said.

According to Markup, other service providers cited household density in their decision and noted the high cost of maintaining older equipment used for slower speeds.

In March, the FCC announced that President Joe Biden’s 2021 infrastructure and jobs bill would require the agency to combat digital discrimination and promote “equal access to broadband across the nation, regardless of income, ethnicity, race, religion, or other affiliation.” announced a digital discrimination inquiry after being asked to do so. it is of national origin”, the report says.

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

Soon, digital navigators will be everywhere in the city — schools or public housing, for example — meeting residents who struggle with Internet access, Nybo said.

Augustine dreams bigger. He envisions one day building a black-owned community broadband network.

People struggling with Internet access, nonprofit leaders and other community members gathered Thursday to learn about digital equity and the history of other cooperatives across the country.

“We allow monopolies for internet service because the internet is not considered a utility like 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 are automatically a second-class citizen.”

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