CITP Tools Help Journalists Uncover Disparities in Internet Service that Hurt Low-Income Customers

At the core of CITP’s mission is the examination of how technology impacts society. That includes citizens in low-income and marginalized communities who rely on internet service to access classes for school, or Zoom calls for work. On October 19, the investigative journalism site, The Markup, reported in Dollars to Megabits, You May Be Paying 400 Times As Much As Your Neighbor for Internet Service, that AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink, and CenturyLink offered shoddy internet service to low-income and “least-White” neighborhoods at the same price they charged to higher income communities that received fast service.

Journalists Leon Yin and Aaron Sankin said they did the investigation using a research method modeled on the 2020 research paper No WAN’s Land: Mapping U.S. Broadband Coverage with Millions of Address Queries to ISPs, authored by “a trio of Princeton researchers” — CITP Graduate Student  Ross Teixeira; Assistant Professor Jonathan Mayer, a member of the CITP faculty and former chief technologist for the FCCs Enforcement Bureau; and Princeton graduate David Major.

The Markup journalists said that 2020 study tapped “an often overlooked information source, the ‘broadband availability tools’ from ISPs’ own websites, to show that the companies were overstating to the FCC where they offered service, particularly in rural areas and neighborhoods where people of color live.” Their work is detailed in, How We Uncovered Disparities in Internet Deals. The Markup acknowledged the assistance of Mayer, Teixeira and Assistant Princeton Professor of Politics and Public Affairs Andy Guess, in their reporting.

This is not the first time CITP research has supported investigative journalism. Earlier this year, CITP research tools helped The Markup break a story about hospitals sharing patient data with Facebook.

—Karen Rouse