Tag: "new york"

Posted November 13, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

A non-profit brainchild of the Ontario County local government in New York, Axcess Ontario, has built a fiber-optic ring in what used to be a broadband desert. A local business recently wrote about their experience with the network:

We recently determined that our bandwidth was insufficient due to our growth and we went about the process of bringing in additional bandwidth. We contacted a local company, Finger Lakes Technologies Group and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the ring was now totally accessible to our location and after a few simple conversations, we committed to the installation of a local link to the new fiber optic network that was now approaching maturity.

In short, this is yet another non-profit putting community needs first and building the infrastructure we need.

Posted June 14, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Stop the Cap! has the authored the most recent of several articles examining a unique middle mile broadband approach in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Their title summarizes the motivation: Ontario County, NY: We Need Fiber So Badly, We Just Did It Ourselves. That story includes a video clip of a recent CNBC Power Lunch 2 minute piece about the Axcess Ontario initiative (complete with the factual error that "no provider offers 100Mbps;" in fact, several community broadband networks offer 100Mbps and Chattanooga has moved beyond with a 150Mbps offering).

Ontario County has a population of some 100,000. To stay relevant in the modern era, they determined the County had to do something to improve broadband availability, so they created a nonprofit called Axcess Ontario, an initiative sufficiently impressive for the County's CIO to receive an award - State Public Sector CIO of the Year.

In creating Axcess Ontario (originally named Finger Lakes Regional Telecommunications Development Corp), the County wanted to be locally self-reliant and did not seek funding from the federal government:

Unlike numerous similar attempts in other parts of the country, Ontario County funded its network without dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those who created Axcess Ontario were insistent the project shouldn't rely on the availability of outside funding, according to Edward Hemminger, CIO of Ontario County.

The network's startup costs were $7.5 million, which the municipality generated through the Ontario County Office of Economic Development/Industrial Development Agency. The organization is a quasi-government agency created by the state to generate economic activity. Businesses pay the agency for various services, the revenue from which pays for initiatives like Axcess Ontario.

In order to mollify the private sector, the county...

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Posted April 23, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

David Pogue, a NY Times Tech columnist, recently wrote about a partnership between cable companies to share Wi-Fi access points:

I, a Cablevision customer, can now use all of Time Warner’s and Comcast’s hot spots in these three states. If you have Time Warner’s Road Runner service at home, you’re now welcome to hop onto Cablevision’s Optimum hot spots wherever you find them, or Comcast’s Xfinity hot spots. And so on. It’s as though all three companies have merged for the purpose of accommodating your Wi-Fi gadget, hugely multiplying the number of hot spots that are available to you.

The companies call this kind of partnership “the first of many.”

Now, I think this development is fantastic. It hits me where I live. It’s free. It’s fast and reliable. I love it.

He goes on to ask, what's in it for them? Apparently, David Pogue has little understanding of how dominant firms work together to cement their power and limit competition.

He then put up a post with an answer from an insider:

“David, widely available WiFi makes our service better, and more useful and valuable,” he wrote. “And we don’t compete directly with TWC or Comcast for high-speed Internet customers; we compete with phone companies that offer a wide array of services, including data plans over increasingly over-burdened and sluggish cellular networks for an extra $60 per month."

Bingo. Big cable companies do not compete with each other - one suspects these companies have tacitly divided the national cable market with an understanding that they will not overbuild each other. The barriers to entering the cable/broadband market are already substantial: any new network requires a massive upfront capital expenditure. This Wi-Fi partnership with cable incumbents makes that barrier even larger.

Let's imagine that a city wants to build a publicly owned network that will compete with one of these companies. Customers of the private incumbent have Wi-Fi access all over the place, across three states - and probably more to come. The incumbent gets the benefit of investments from other cable cos in the partnership.

Any guesses on whether the publicly owned network will be...

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Posted August 10, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

In another example of how some private companies continue acting against the public interest, Verizon is again using FiOS as a weapon, threatening not to bring it to a New York town unless the town essentially waives some $12,000 in real estate taxes.

Communities maintain what is called the "right-of-way" - where utility polls are located or conduit is buried underground. Imagine if a cable company had to work out an arrangement with every resident who had a poll in their yard to string cable - what a headache! Instead, companies like Verizon negotiate with the municipal government for access to the right-of-way. In return, communities typically negotiate for things like a franchise fee, often a 3%-5% fee from television revenues that is used to fund local public access channels. The right-of-way is a valuable community asset and the community deserves to benefit from allowing private companies to profit from it.

In this case, Verizon wants to dodge the real estate taxes it owes by taking them out of the franchise fee - which would pass effectively reduce its public interest obligations required by using the rights-of-way. Yet another way in which companies put profits above the community.

Verizon must have some skilled accountants, they never seem to pay taxes. When they sold off their customers in New England to the failing Fairpoint, they also avoided paying taxes on the income from the sale.

Posted July 30, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell
Another roundup of semi-recent news:
  • Lafayette's groundbreaking network is exciting the folks at Governing.com - they say, "The Future of the Internet is in Lafayette, Louisiana." Ellen Perlman hints are future coverage of the network as well:
    To put it in perspective, that's 10 times faster than already very fast Internet. And more than 100 times faster than the Internet "starter" plan that, for example, Verizon is offering. Basically, Lafayette will have a city Intranet, the way universities and technology companies do. So residents will have a very fast connection within the city-parish "campus." Critics wonder why residents need such speeds and why the city had to build its own network. An August story in Governing will get into detail about that.
  • Green Party Candidate for the Syracuse City Council speaks out on the need for a publicly owned fiber network in the city:
    Hundreds of US cities have municipal ownership of their broadband utilities and their customers pay 30% less on average for cable TV, internet, and phone. Time Warner’s cable franchise is up for renewal. Now is the time to municipalize our broadband utility for (1) lower fees, (2) community control of available channels (from Democracy Now to the NFL Network), (3) quality Public Access, Education, and Government (PEG) programming, (4) universal access to high-speed internet, and (5) up-to-date public access video and web-based media creation centers. Every Syracuse should have first-class, affordable access to internet, cable, and phone communications. The Syracuse economy needs first-rate affordable broadband to progress. The profits now exported to Time-Warner can stay in the community for our own benefit through municipal cable.

    Advocates for such a fiber network in Syracuse have a website loaded with resources.

  • Will wireline-based telephone companies need a bailout in coming years? This is an interesting analysis that suggests the public may end up financing these networks one way or another... The argument goes like this - as people increasingly get rid of that landline, these companies still...
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