February 27, 2024

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Consider It Solved

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

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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.

Filed Under: broadband, competition, digital divide, eric adams, high speed internet, low income, nyc

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