New York State Embraces Community Broadband

from the do-it-yourself dept

We’ve noted for a long time how data makes it clear that, contrary to claims by telecom monopolies, community broadband networks are hugely beneficial. They generally offer faster speeds at lower prices with better customer service than regional monopolies, and they also tend to push said monopolies to try a little harder to compete on price, and expand and improve service.

While federal lawmakers under the sway of the telecom lobby often refuse to grasp this reality, many states are taking things into their own hands (a recurring theme in competent telecom policy). For example New York State just passed a new budget that specifically paves the way for greater participation in the broadband ecosystem by community broadband networks.

The recently passed $220 billion New York State budget bill includes $1 billion for the state’s ConnectALL initiative. That initiative in turn establishes a “municipal assistance program” that will help drive funding to municipalities, state and local authorities that are planning local broadband networks:

Municipal grant recipients, the bill says, will be required to build broadband infrastructure to “facilitate projects that, at a minimum, provide reliable Internet service with consistent speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and at least 20 (Mbps) for upload.” That shouldn’t be a problem as most municipal broadband projects use fiber optics that can deliver far more than that.

It’s a little thing, but just getting state and federal leaders to acknowledge that community broadband is an essential part of improving U.S. broadband has been a steep uphill climb. Some states have been actively doing the inverse; buckling to pressure from AT&T and Comcast lobbyists to specifically ensure federal broadband grant money can’t go to anything that would vaguely resemble competition.

That risks putting states in conflict with language in the infrastructure bill, meaning they could potentially forfeit billions in once-in-a-lifetime broadband funding, all to please some local monopolies. And while there was initially some concern that New York’s budget included some of that language, the final budget appears to be free of such arbitrary restrictions.

Such networks take a wide variety of forms. Some are cooperatives, some are built on the backs of existing utility fiber, and some are public/private partnerships. The telecom lobby has done a “phenomenal” job in getting the right wing to frame this as “socialism run amok” or a “government takeover of the internet,” despite obvious benefits and the fact they have broad, bipartisan support.

Again, if big ISPs like Comcast and AT&T really wanted to thwart community broadband, they could improve their customer service, boost service quality, and lower their prices (which they do, sometimes). But with many U.S. state and federal lawmakers so easily bought and sold, it’s often way less expensive to lobby them into fighting against their constituents own best self interests.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “New York State Embraces Community Broadband”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Naughty Autie says:


Hence why the state government of New York are making this move. It’s had enough of Big Telecom promising the earth, and then not giving so much as a handful of soil, so it’s stepping in to provide for its citizens in Big Telecom’s stead. If Big Telecom doesn’t like it, then maybe they should, you know, actually compete. Um, sorry. What was your point again?

Anonymous Coward says:

provide reliable Internet service with consistent speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and at least 20 (Mbps) for upload.”

Meh. It’s good to get some support, but those are quite low goals. DOCSIS could do 30 Mbit/s upload in 2002. I was just reading about how a person in Zürich upgraded to 25 Gbit/s symmetrical fiber. For no additional cost over gigabit or 10g: 65 CHF/month, about $68, and of course it’s unlimited. Some people say that’s useless, while others have pointed out how fast access can let people e.g. work with huge scientific datasets (otherwise, one would have to physically go to a university or mail a hard drive).

I’d love to see some actual ambition, like when people decided they would bring electricity and telephone service to pretty much every location where anyone wanted it (like the famous Mojave phone booth, 12 miles from any paved road)—before most people were convinced of the necessity. In other words, don’t leave the “good” connections just to rich downtown office buildings. Give everyone so much speed that we’ve got to invent new technology to make use of it, lest we cede such innovation to other countries.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, not for the author of that blog post, who would be limited by the speed of the drive (remember that SATA is 6.0 Gbit/s—faster than hard drives). Assuming the recipient has an equally good connection, mailing would only add delays, unless maybe it’s an SSD. For me, mailing would absolutely be faster. In some fields of science, such as astrophysics I think, it’s common to mail hard drives.

That really reinforces a division between the professionals and amateurs. I’m not an astrophysicist or geneticist; it would be awkward for me to ask one to mail a drive, and impractical for me to download or upload amounts that large. Just another barrier to participation, similar to the ones Techdirt authors praise Sci-Hub for helping to solve. Because, historically, casual interests have occasionally led to important inventions and discoveries.

It’s pushing us in the direction of internet centralization/monopolization, too. Send everything through Cloudflare and Amazon and the like, because the rest of us can’t get hundred-gigabit connections. (Access to computing power is part of that, but overrated: I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s off-the-shelf PC had more power than all of Yahoo and Geocities at their peaks.)

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re: Re:

“That really reinforces a division between the professionals and amateurs.”

Not really. The only difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals get paid for their work and amateurs don’t. Therefore, an amateur might also need to send more data than can be rapidly uploaded to the cloud (or wherever).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Therefore, an amateur might also need to send more data than can be rapidly uploaded to the cloud (or wherever).

Right, that’s my point. Universities have always had crazy-fast internet connections (“Internet2” in the USA). Home users get slow speeds, data transfer limits, etc., because no home user “needs” the type of connection a university or large company has. To some uncredentialed person on an ancient several-megabit DSL connection, a project requiring terabytes of data is just gonna seem impractical. Maybe some researcher would humor them by mailing a hard drive to someone they’ve never heard of, someone who has no clear idea of what they might do with it, but really, how many people would even be willing to ask?

…which brings up back to “ambition”. America should have the ambition to do more than maybe give some people in New York State access to circa-2002 technology within the next few years, more than aim for the minimum that can be justified by “requirements”. Otherwise, only people with an unreasonable amount of ambition themselves are going to work past the hurdles.

Bruce C. says:

Proposed budget formula for community broadband..

in cases where incumbent ISPs have failed to deliver agreed upon services: the shortfall in performance from prior subsidies is directed to fund community broadband. This would be particularly effective in states that have been through the mill with the telecom companies a few times already, like NY, PA and others.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...