Adams Administration Finally Gets Around To Admitting They Killed NYC’s Ambitious Broadband Plan

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

Back in 2020, New York City officials unveiled an aggressive plan to revolutionize broadband in the city. The centerpiece of this Internet Master Plan involved building a $156 million open access fiber network that competitors could easily join at low cost, driving some much needed competition — and lower rates, faster speeds, and better coverage — to New York City residents.

It wasn’t meant to be.

Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city would be “pausing” the initiative. In reality, folks who’d been working on the project for years told me repeatedly that the most ambitious portion of the plan — actively challenging the city’s telecom monopolies with an open access fiber network — was killed off without any consultation with the experts who crafted it.

This week the Adams administration finally got around to admitting it had killed NYC’s ambitious broadband plan:

After Gothamist received a tip the project had been canceled, officials from the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) confirmed the decision on Nov. 29 — about a year after the de Blasio administration announced it had chosen a dozen businesses — including a handful owned or led by women or people of color — to spearhead the effort. The cancellation has not been publicly announced, but city officials said those businesses were informed sometime in November.

Several consultants and regional ISPs told me they were very late in the planning and implementation portion of the program, which had greatly upset regional NYC monopolies.

What did the city do instead of spending $156 million on an open access fiber network? Well, for one, it embraced a partnership with Charter (Spectrum, a company that almost got kicked out of New York State for lies and substandard service) that involves paying the monopoly $90 million over three years to temporarily deliver cheaper broadband to around 400,000 low income housing project users.

As opposed to $156 million on an open access fiber network that would have driven numerous, local ISPs to compete in layers, driving down costs for those in range… permanently.

Folks in positions of power from both U.S. parties really love doing this thing where they throw subsidies at the same regional monopolies responsible for crushing competition and driving up prices, then act confused when this convoluted, temporary relief doesn’t fix the actual, full problem.

Our recent Techdirt/Copia report on America’s broadband problem discussed at great length how the solution to the digital divide involves standing up to telecom monopolies and backing the creation of open access fiber networks by a growing coalition of cooperatives, municipalities, utilities, and public/private partnerships.

But doing this requires standing up to telecom monopolies that are not only politically powerful, but bone-grafted to our intelligence gathering and first responder networks. So what captured policymakers from both parties tend to do instead is something best described as… theater. Talk a lot about the importance of bridging the digital divide, but never stand up to the monopolies responsible for it.

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Comments on “Adams Administration Finally Gets Around To Admitting They Killed NYC’s Ambitious Broadband Plan”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know what the previous commenter meant, but arguing about whether a politician or policy is “socialist” or “conservative”, “left-wing” or “right-wing”, or whatever label you want to apply, never seems to lead to anything beyond the argument itself. We don’t get any useful information. Words are just a toy that politicians play with; it’s superficial.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3

my intent was not to excuse Adams. I’m sorry if it came off like that.

I don’t think it did, but terms such as “conservative democrat” or “right-wing” don’t really explain how this “is more in line with his ideology”. An open-access network is fairly non-partisan. One politician could frame it in terms of social equity, while another could say it’s gonna create a free market and pay for itself such that government subsidies will no longer be needed.

Is Adams’s alternate plan—a government handout giving some people 3 years of free access—really “conservative” or “right-wing”? Perhaps we could just say it’s pro-incumbent-ISP, since it gives them money without helping create any competition; I wonder whether Adams got money from them.

Not being from NYC, I know nothing about what relevant ideological claims were made by Adams, and I don’t see any stated reasons for cancelation in the story.

settsu (profile) says:

Waffle House of Cards

The level of noncommittal doublespeak on the issues of internet access (equity, arbitrarily subpar speeds, lack of true competition, etc.) is maddening, and seeing actual steps forward being quashed in a heartbeat with no explanation even more so.

But are we really gonna acted shocked this happened in the same country where children are repeatedly slaughtered or entire cities are slowly poisoned yet effectively no meaningful actions are taken??

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