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New Telecommunications Services Bypass Minorities with Disabilities




Advanced Telecommunications Services (ATS) Fiber Lines are apparently bypassing minority neighborhoods in major U.S. cities, a trend doubly impacting minorities with disabilities who could use the technology to improve job opportunities.

ATS providers install fiber lines that carry digital information under city streets and via railroad and subway rights-of-way. In competition with local telephone companies, these communications pipelines carry digital voice and data telecommunications traffic, mostly for large businesses.

InContext, a Washington-based company specializing in geo-economics, surveyed installation of ATS in Washington, Denver, Atlanta and Portland, and determined these carriers do not provide linkages within inner city and low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of minorities and higher than average numbers of adults with disabilities.

Washington, DC, neighborhoods which are 50 to 100 percent African-American and contain 113,683 businesses do not have access to the telecommunications services that broadband fiber capacity can deliver. Anecdotal and some survey work by InContext reveals little or no marketing to these businesses despite interest in such services.

Denver shows a similar trend. Competing providers have not targeted ATS marketing to businesses in neighborhoods that are predominantly Hispanic (1,755 businesses), African-American (1,533 businesses) or Asian-American (712 businesses). InContext studies indicate a similar pattern of not marketing to minority city neighborhoods in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta and Albuquerque.

While the reasons for this lack of access include regulatory strictures for existing carriers and the types of business ATS companies target (heavy users of long-distance and international calls, heavy volume of voice and data usage, and businesses housed in high-rise buildings) the framework for digital redlining is becoming apparent.

This is of particular concern in the context of unemployment levels among minorities with disabilities, for whom access to ATS can enhance employment and entrepreneurial opportunities where jobs are scarce and transportation inadequate.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1994-95 data approximately 72.2 percent of African-Americans with disabilities and 51.9 percent of Hispanics with disabilities are not working. Additionally, the same data show that 85.5 percent of African-Americans and 75.4 percent of Hispanics with severe disabilities are not working.




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