Like countless other American cities, Cleveland, Ohio, suffers from a lack of meaningful broadband competition. With only one or two largely apathetic ISPs to choose from, high prices, slow speeds, limited deployment, and customer service headaches are the norm. It’s particularly bad in the city’s poorer, urban areas. AT&T has avoided upgrading lower-income minority neighborhoods at the same rate as higher-income parts of the city, despite decades of subsidies and tax breaks intended to prevent that from happening, according to a report by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). Even in more affluent neighborhoods, users are lucky if they have an ISP that can deliver speeds over 50 Mbps.
The problem is much bigger than Cleveland, but the FCC isn’t ready to do much about it. US customers pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world, and broadband availability is sketchy at best for millions of Americans. But instead of tackling that problem head on, the FCC is increasingly looking the other way, relying on ISP data that paints an inaccurately rosy picture of Americans’ internet access. And as long as regulators are relying on a false picture of US broadband access, actually solving the problem may be impossible.