Cuomo's NY Broadband Pledge Under Audit After Coming Up Short

from the round-and-round-we-go dept

Back in 2015, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a Broadband for All pledge the state proclaimed would invest $500 million to ensure statewide broadband access by 2018. The effort was to be funded largely by legal settlements struck with banks after the last recession, with dollar-per-dollar matching pledges by companies promising to deliver speeds of at least 100 Mbps down, 25 Mbps up across the state.

The problem (and tell me if you’ve heard this one before): ample subsidies and five years later and many New Yorkers say they still can’t get even substandard broadband. And according to NY’s own data on the project, the “matching funds” promised by industry wound up not materializing the majority of the time:

“Out of 53 broadband projects awarded, only 4 of them matched or exceeded state investment. A further breakdown of the contracts awarded shows that the state focused on addressing a set number of units, or census blocks, to connect. Approximately 256,000 ?units? in New York were scheduled to be connected to high-speed broadband.”

To pad the stats a bit, NY also deemed that traditional satellite broadband — rife with slow speeds, high prices, very high latency, and daily usage caps and overage fees — “broadband.” And when local reporters asked the state why they’d given money to satellite providers instead of more reliable fixed fiber providers, the state wouldn’t answer:

“A spokesperson from the Broadband Program Office told WGRZ in recent weeks that they ensured these “units” were connected with what they called ?enhanced satellite service? with a connection of at least 25Mbps. But the spokesperson wouldn?t comment on why 30% of the units addressed in the program went to a satellite company rather than a provider that offered a fiber-to-the-home solution.”

This is, if you’re new to U.S. broadband, what the United States does. Politicians get easy brownie points by paying lip service to better, cheaper access. Subsidies fly fast and furiously, then, almost like clockwork, that money doesn’t result in the promised outcomes, network improvements routinely wind up half-deployed, and accountability proves hard to come by. Rinse, wash, repeat. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that between state and federal subsidies over the last two decades, American taxpayers have probably paid for undelivered fiber to the home service to every home in the country several times over by now.

Yet 42 million Americans remain disconnected during a public health crisis. 83 million live under a broadband monopoly. Tens of millions more live in a duopoly where your only choice is Comcast or a telco DSL line that literally hasn’t been upgraded in a decade because doing so wasn’t profitable enough, quickly enough, for Wall Street’s liking. Regulators and lawmakers inundated with AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon financial affections happily look the other way. Rinse, wash, repeat. Meanwhile, actual people out of reach of service tell the same story, over and over again:

“It?s all a lot of empty promises with no sign of service,? Katy tells Stop the Cap! from her home near Dundee, in the Finger Lakes region of the state. ?I?ve lived here since the days when the only phone line you could get was a party line shared with four other homes and I still have my rotary dial phone New York Telephone installed in 1965. These companies don?t want me to forget I am living in the past.?

Katy lives about 500 feet from the nearest address able to subscribe to Charter Spectrum and was quoted $9,000 to extend cable to her home, set far back from the main road. Verizon has never offered DSL in her neighborhood, because she is located too far away from the central office. Her property is set in a small forest, so satellite internet is not a possibility either.”

Now, as U.S. kids huddle around Taco Bells just to attend school in a health crisis, the New York State Comptroller?s Office is conducting an audit of the state’s Broadband Program to determine, once again, why state, federal, and industry promises mysteriously, routinely, come up short.

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Anonymous Coward says:

After the billions of dollars of basically tax payers money that have been given to these lying companies and to the lying politicians who have backed the various companies (in exchange for campaign contributions!), isn’t it about time that there was a complete exposing of what has been going on and who has been/still is involved? How many more billions are going to be given to them when nothing but false promises are given in return? I appreciate that companies are going to take as much as possible ehile giving as little if anything and that the biggest culprets are the politicians but think of what sort of broadband infrastructure we could/should already have and, perhaps more importantly, the other projects that the ridiculous amounts of money could have been spent on, like health, education and transport. Then think of what us citizens haven’t had because the money was thrown down the pan and into certain officials bank accounts instead!

ECA (profile) says:

what happened?

What has happened to contracts when WE the people have to abid by them, but corps arent even monitored to get things DONE.
Let alone some idiot(s) does not know the differences between 56k, DSL, ISDN, Sat, Cable, Fiber.

So, in the background, in the last 40+ years the Old wired phone systems and Cable lines have NEVER been upgraded or re-enforced, modified, improved? Just barely keeping hte system working and keeping the poles up?
So, collecting profits, doing little to update hardware(not counting the inbed monitoring service called caller ID), Cutting Corners and employees over the years to get More Top wages(not savings to the customers). Just collecting the money. Even when the gov./State has paid them, more then 1 time with More consumer money.
And no one to monitor or enforce the contracts to GET THINGS DONE?? And no one has gone to jail?
This reminds me of the time a Mayor of a town, used up over $100,000 for his own use, got fired, but the STATE never took him to court to get the money back, OR take the $100,000 home he had built.

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