A couple of years into the pandemic, Shirley Neville had finally had enough of her shoddy internet service.
“It was just a headache,” said Neville, who lives in a middle-class neighborhood in New Orleans whose residents are almost all Black or Latino. “When I was getting ready to use my tablet for a meeting, it was cutting off and not coming on.”
Neville said she was willing to pay more to be able to Zoom without interruption, so she called AT&T to upgrade her connection. She said she was told there was nothing the company could do.
In her area, AT&T only offers download speeds of 1 megabit per second or less, trapping her in a digital Stone Age. Her internet is so slow that it doesn’t meet Zoom’s recommended minimum for group video calls; doesn’t come close to the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of broadband, currently 25 Mbps; and is worlds below median home internet speeds in the U.S., which average 167 Mbps.
“In my neighborhood, it’s terrible,” Neville said.
But that’s not the case in other parts of New Orleans. AT&T offers residents of the mostly white, upper-income neighborhood of Lakeview internet speeds almost 400 times faster than Neville’s—for the same price: $55 a month.