Tag: "new york"

Posted July 15, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

The war over keeping copper alive rages on in New York with more stealthy antics from Verizon. Stop the Cap! now reports that, rather than wait for a hurricane to take out the copper lines in the Catskills, it will quietly shift seasonal home owners to VoiceLink as they request reconnection. Stop the Cap! also published a letter [PDF] from the Communication Workers of America (CWA) who allege Verizon has also been installing VoiceLink in the City.

We recently visited this drama with Harold Feld from Public Knowledge on Broadband Bits podcast #52. He and Christopher discussed the issue as it applies to Fire Island in New York and Barrier Island in New Jersey. Verizon has permission from the New York Public Services Commission (NYPSC) to use the VoiceLink product in place of copper wires on a temporary basis as a way to get service to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Seven months is a long time to go without phone service.

Our readers know that VoiceLink short changes users, especially those that rely on phone connections for Life Alert, want to use phone cards, or want the security of reliable 911 service. Feld also noted in his Tales from the Sausage Factory blog, that Verizon was rumored to be making secret plans to expand VoiceLink well beyond the islands, regardless of the limitations of the NYPSC order. 

It appears the rumors were true and only scratch the surface. The letter from CWA District 1 President, Chris Shelton, to the NYPSC relates how members engaged in work for Verizon were trained to install VoiceLink and that the company installed the product in a variety of locations in New York City. One location was a residential building in...

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Posted June 25, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

We welcome Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge back to the show to discuss the latest update in the so-called IP Transition. Back in episode 32, Harold explained the five fundamental protections needed for our telecommunications system.

Today he returns to discuss the ways in which some of the islands devastated by Sandy are being turned into Verizon experiments as Verizon refuses to rebuild the copper phone number or upgrade to fiber; instead Verizon is installing an inadequate substitute, as we covered in this story.

Harold explains why this turn of events in New York and New Jersey is an important harbinger for the rest of us and why states should not premarturely deregulate important consumer protections like carrier of last resort and public utility commission oversight.

Read the transcript from this show here.

This show is 15 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted June 19, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Victims of Sandy are still recovering from the killer storm that ripped through the east coast last year. Two places hardest hit by the "Frankenstorm" were Fire Island, New York and the Barrier Island in New Jersey. In addition to homes and property, residents lost phone and Internet communications when telephone wires went down. They are still waiting to be reconnected.

Our readers know about the huge fight that has embroiled consumer advocates and the leading telephone providers in the past few years. AT&T and Verizon seek deregulation to escape the "carrier of last resort" obligation that requires maintenance of traditional copper lines for telephone service. AT&T and Verizon want to shed that responsibility in favor of wireless service that is less expensive to maintain, even though it does not support the range of uses today's copper networks do. 

Verizon is the incumbent telephone provider in Fire Island and Barrier Island but decided it will not repair damaged lines. It wants to instead deploy its inferior Voice Link wireless service on the island.

The Voice Link technology basically attaches to your house and uses Verizon's cellular network to connect the telephones in your home. Homeowners can continue to use their home phones, but the quality tends to be worse than on a proper wired telephone network. 

Under federal law,  telephone providers are obligated to replace or repair downed copper lines unless they substitute with a "line improvement," such as fiber-optic lines. Voice Link cannot be described as a "line improvement" - the only benefit it provides is that it costs Verizon less to build and maintain. 

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Jodie Griffin from Public Knowledge recently pointed out some of the many shortcomings of Voice Link, as revealed on Verizon's own Terms of Service. The people most harmed by this scaled back service include the people who, in one way or another, are most vulnerable. Harold Feld, also...

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Posted June 6, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

If you live in Boston, Baltimore, Albany, Syracuse, or Buffalo, you won't be getting FiOS from Verizon. Absent any public investment, you will likely be stuck with DSL and cable... like 80% of the rest of us.

Not long after Verizon announced it would cease expanding FiOS, we learned that Verizon was coming to an arrangement with the cable companies that would essentially divide the broadband market. Verizon won't challenge cable companies with FiOS and the cable companies won't challenge Verizon's "Rule the Air" wireless domain.

For a while now, the FCC has reviewed a potential deal for a Verizon purchase of Comcast's wireless spectrum. The possible deal involves multi-layered questions of anti-competitive behavior, collusion, and corporate responsibility. 

Along with many other interested parties, such as the Communications Workers of America, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and  the five towns are publicly opposing the deal. They have expressed their derision to the FCC but whether or not they will influence the result remains to be seen.

From a FierceTelecom article by Sean Buckley:

Curt Anderson, chair of the Baltimore City Delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates, expressed...outrage on the agreement the telco made.

"Under this transaction, Baltimore will never get a fiber-optic network, and the city will be at a disadvantage," he said. "The direct job loss will be the hundreds of technicians that would be employed building, installing and maintaining FiOS in the area. The indirect costs of this deal are even higher: the lack of competition in telecommunications will raise prices and reduce service quality.

And:

The deal, said Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, "is not in the best interest of those who need to get and stay connected the most and is "a step backwards in bridging the digital divide."

Though these five cities...

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Posted May 25, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

Thurman, New York, like many other rural communities, has little or no access to broadband. Many of the 1,219 residents still use dial-up. According to a recent town survey, less than 25% of the population has connections that could be described as high-speed. Thurman, however, will soon be tapping into an uncommon source for connectivity - so called White Spaces.

In a recent PostStar.com article, Jon Alexander reports that the community is now moving forward with a plan based on using the unused radio spaces between television networks to provide access. It was only recently that the FCC approved the method. The Town Board just approved a resolution to dedicate $20,000.00 in state economic development grants. The funds, about two-thirds of grant funding, will be used to test out the technology in the northern and western sections of town. If the experiment proves successful, additional funding for a build out will need to be allocated.

Thurman, which lies entirely in the Adirondack Park, has been largely ignored by private telecom investment. With such a sparse population, the Town is used to being overlooked. In fact, Federal surveys often show Thurman as uninhabited. Town Board Member Leon Galusha told Alexander, “Believe it or not, people do live here.”

Because the geography of Thurman is hilly and tree-covered and the town's population is spread out, the town is a perfect place to test the White Spaces technology. White Spaces do not require line-of-sight, as in some wireless technology, and vegetation or walls do not interfere with the signal. The technology is becoming more popular in Europe, but has only been used sparingly in the U.S. In order to use the White Space, the town will need access to Frontier Wireless' fiber optic lines, which run through town.

Because the technology is so new, and Thurman could prove to be a test case for other small towns,  the move has attracted attention from state officials. Talks with the Governor's staff and a presentation at one State Rep's broadband symposium have put Thurman in...

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Posted July 11, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

The folks in Syracuse who are organizing for a community-owned network have changed their name from the Syracuse Municipal Broadband Initiative to Syracuse Community Broadband Initiative:

Syracuse Community Broadband Initiative is the new name of the project. This was done because the use of "municipal" seemed to create a number of misconceptions in the minds of some institutional leaders. We used the term "municipal" generically to mean community-owned, and community ownership and control is what we wish to emphasize. Moreover, the form of business entity we favor is not a municipal authority but a 501(c)(12) utility service, a special type of consumer cooperative designed for, e.g., telecommunications, power, and water utilities (there are over 2,000 such utilities in the U.S. today). We hope the new name will better convey the nature of the project.

In talking to people and journalists, I have also found some confusion around the term "municipal." Some assume this means a muni network would only serve city departments, schools, libraries, etc.

Making a network a coop rather than being owned by the local government may help win some support from those who are hostile to the government owning anything, but there are downsides as well.  Local governments have hundreds of years of experience building infrastructure and therefore have more financial tools available.  Funding a new coop can be a daunting challenge.  

We are very supportive of both approaches in our efforts to ensure broadband networks are structurally accountable to the communities they serve. As groups like these folks in Syracuse find solutions to these problems, we hope they will share their successes as well as lessons learned.  

Posted June 12, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

CIO Magazine is the third organization in less than a year to recognize the importance of Ontario County's broadband investment in itself. CIO received a "CIO 100" award to go with recognition from Computerworld and the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Axcess Ontario is an open access middle mile network built without any federal loans or grants. They wanted to invest in themselves and have succeeded. The network serves multiple private sector telecom firms, including Verizon Wireless - a fact that should be recognized in an age when some would have us believe the public sector should never be involved in this essential infrastructure.

Posted April 12, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Steuben, Chemung, and Schuyler counties have joined with fiber-optic cable manufacturer Corning to announce a middle-mile network connecting community anchor institutions, wireless towers, etc. Corning picked up the lion's share of the network, $10 million of the $12.2 million price tag.

Local governments, educational institutions, health care organizations and other commercial/industrial businesses also stand to benefit greatly, said Marcia Weber, Southern Tier Central executive director.

Possible applications include “distance learning” between college campus branches and “telemedicine” between rural clinics and major hospitals, Weber said.

The project has been a top priority for Southern Tier Central in recent years. Weber, who called it “her passion,” was very disappointed when a major federal stimulus grant was narrowly missed last year.

The counties’ share (Steuben, $1.23 million; Chemung, $790,000; Schuyler, $188,000) will fund a non-profit, to be called Southern Tier Network, that has been created to oversee and maintain the network.

The project starts this year and expects to be finished by 2013. In 2014, the project is expected to become self-sustainable -- being funded by the fees it charges for access to the infrastructure.

A fact sheet on the project [pdf] explains the governing structure:

Southern Tier Network is a new not-for-profit, local development corporation (LDC) established to own, build and manage a $12.2 million regional fiber optic backbone that will enable access to the highest speed broadband connectivity available in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben Counties. Articles of Incorporation for Southern Tier Network have been filed with New York State, and a board of directors is in place, comprised of representatives from the three counties and other community stakeholders.

The fact sheet also explains the idea of Middle Mile and Open Access (referencing Axcess Ontario, a similar project funded by Ontario County):

Southern Tier Network will...

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Posted March 28, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

In the ongoing effort to better network us network-type people, I wanted to note a site, Agrilan Rural Broadband Blog, that is working toward better rural broadband in upstate New York. I plan to put up short posts like this from time to time in hopes that people will get a better sense of who is near them (or has similar interests) for coalitions to advocate for broadband networks that are structurally accountable to communities.

Posted January 3, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Ontario County was working on a publicly owned solution to Middle Mile long before the broadband stimulus approach made it popular. And now, before most of the stimulus money has been disbursed, they have completed an expanded version of their initial plan.

To date, Axcess Ontario has signed master agreements with eight telecom and broadband companies, including Verizon Wireless and national broadband provider tw telecom. Axcess Ontario is in continual discussions with other service providers, and is working aggressively on its next goal of luring a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service provider to Ontario County. With the fiber ring complete, businesses and municipalities now have access to faster and less expensive broadband, as well as bandwidth equal to global broadband leaders. Businesses can gain access to the ring simply by contacting any of the eight service providers that work with Axcess Ontario. Residents do not yet have access to faster and less expensive broadband, but they will once a FTTH service provider is secured. Axcess Ontario has been working to lure a FTTH provider for more than a year, including submitting an application on behalf of Ontario County, NY, to Google's "Fiber for Communities" ultrafast broadband project earlier this year. More than 1,100 communities nationwide responded to that project, and Google just announced last week that it was postponing its selection of winning communities to early 2011.

We will be interested to see if they can lure a FTTH provider -- though middle mile can lower the operating costs of providing such a service, the capital costs are not significantly changed. And with the robust middle mile already connecting community anchor institutions, a new FTTH provider cannot count on those high-revenue customers. We have seen this previously in Alberta, Canada. Axcess Ontario is an example of a good public-private partnership - as noted in Telecompetitor:

Axcess Ontario credits much of its $2 million cost savings to a lease agreement with Ontario Telephone Co., an incumbent local carrier.

...
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