AT&T and Verizon control about two thirds of the mobile market, and they’ve found that ignoring the needs of people of color on low incomes is good for their bottom line. But their dominance at the top has long pushed other carriers, like T-Mobile and Sprint, to focus on the communities being left out.
But now T-Mobile and Sprint are planning to merge in order to challenge those higher end brands, which means poorer communities of color are very likely to get thrown under the bus. Without competition, there will be no incentive to keep prices low for people struggling to get by.
According to a recent survey, 56% of T-Mobile’s customers are people of color, as are 45% of Sprint’s. That number is even higher for some of the prepaid brands they own, like the whopping 62% of MetroPCS (now Metro by T-Mobile) customers who are from communities of color. Meanwhile, these groups make up less than 35% of Verizon and AT&T’s base.
The harmful effects of this merger are clear. Rising prices will mean people on lower incomes may need to choose between feeding their families and keeping them connected. It will exacerbate the digital divide and leave communities of color even more disconnected than they already are.