By Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda (District 87/NY)
As a state known for uniquely embracing and harnessing the power of technology, it should come as no surprise that New York consumers love options. Considering the way in which broadband technology has fundamentally changed how the cable industry operates, it is safe to say that New Yorkers can expect to see a lot more options in the months and years to come.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just held another Open Internet Roundtable Discussion yesterday, where the dialogue focused on ways to keep the broadband industry competitive, but also ensure the protections of U.S. broadband consumers. Roundtable speakers all attested to the dynamic changes that the broadband industry has undergone over the course of a decade or more.
Consider the cable industry. During the course of a 65 plus year history, cable has undergone a complete transformation. The industry has gone from delivering broadcast channels to just three states (1948), to launching cable residential broadband (1996), to creating 200,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the United States (2013).
Across the nation, states like New York are actively pursuing ways to use broadband to promote economic development, grow communities, improve the delivery of government services, and modernize educational systems. In a 2012 study rating all 50 states on broadband adoption levels, network quality, and use of broadband as an economic driver, New York ranked in the top 15 at number 10 – earning it a rating of “above average.” This is great progress, but we should strive for an “excellent” rating.
In New York State, 1.1 million people still do not have access to broadband services. In New York City specifically, three percent of the population (over 100,000 households) has no broadband access – some of these residents reside in my very own district. Throughout the N.Y. metropolitan area, the absence of broadband connections is commonly a result of buildings lacking access, rather than a complete lack of infrastructure, which is unfortunately too often the case within New York’s rural communities. So yes, there is more work ahead of us, but there are also many milestones to be celebrated.
The New York State Broadband Program Office reports that, compared to just two years ago, nearly one million more households in New York now have access to broadband services. In a national state comparison of broadband network speeds and homes that are wired with fiber optic broadband, New York ranks among the top ten states for best network quality. This accomplishment is very significant. Americans are heavily reliant on the Internet, and now with the proliferation of mobile and wireless devices, demand for fast, reliable broadband speeds is skyrocketing.
New York is among the top states ensuring that broadband services are keeping pace with consumer demand, while also working to expand high-speed Internet access across low-income and underserved communities through efforts such as the Connect NY Broadband Grant Program.
Total investments in broadband through the Connect NY Program have reached $32 million. Internet service providers like Time Warner Cable have committed over $5 million to the project in an effort to deliver broadband connections to New York households. The program is expected to bring broadband service to over 153,000 households, 8,000 businesses and 400 anchor institutions – many of which have no Internet access.
This is not only innovation at its best – it is a testament to our state’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and working to ensure that all New Yorkers, including our states underserved, low-income, and minority communities, are able to access this transformative technology and reap the benefits that broadband has to offer. This means, among many other areas, greater opportunities for our students, small businesses, and the delivery of healthcare services.
I am proud of what we have accomplished in New York. However, we must work to ensure that policymakers and regulators continue to take greater steps to support the continued growth of the broadband industry.
The broadband industry has proven that it is positioned to work for us; for our communities; for our economic prosperity – all we need to do is seize the opportunity.
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is a member of the New York State Assembly, 87th A.D. Bronx, NY.