The Congressional Black Caucus has joined the list of
minority-interest organizations watching for potential redlining of advanced technological
Caucus chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has warned
Tele-Communications Inc. that the Black Caucus is "concerned" over recent
allegations that TCI and its affiliated companies are ignoring minority communities when
upgrading their plant to offer Internet access and digital technology.
But TCI vehemently denied that it is practicing redlining
in any of its systems.
Waters, in a letter sent late last month to TCI president
and chief operating officer Leo J. Hindery Jr., said, "Numerous media reports"
alleged that TCI has "upgraded cable service in predominately white residential
neighborhoods, while leaving predominately black and poor neighborhoods with inferior
service." Waters, however, did not reveal which TCI systems have been targeted, and
numerous phone attempts to reach her were not returned.
But sources familiar with the situation said the
congresswoman was referring to TCI's Jefferson County and Louisville, Ky., systems,
which were recently cited by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, a group headed by the Rev. Jesse
Jackson. The group raised concerns about possible "redlining" by TCI during the
MSO's annual meeting in Denver in August.
According to the organization's representatives,
systems in low-income sections of those two areas were scheduled be the last to receive
fiber optic upgrades, but TCI labeled the Kentucky issue as "random" and
In response to Waters' letter, a TCI spokeswoman would
only say that the MSO is "committed to making our service available to all customers,
and it has absolutely no tolerance for redlining."
Waters did not mention what the caucus would do if TCI is
found guilty of redlining, but industry observers said the organization would most likely
publicize the issue in an effort to force the MSO to change its policies.
The Black Caucus joined the Federal Communications
Commission and the National Association of Minorities in Communications as organizations
that have pledged to monitor operators' deployment of advanced cable services to
low-income and minority neighborhoods.
The FCC will begin public hearings over the next few months
under the provisions of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Section 706 requires the FCC to take "immediate
action" to promote broadband deployment if it finds that advanced telecommunications
capability is not being deployed to all Americans in a "reasonable and timely