[Chtechcomm] Time for a Chapel Hill rally for municipal network?

Terri Buckner tbuckner at ibiblio.org
Wed Aug 24 15:52:45 EDT 2005

New Yorkers rally for Community Internet

Free Press supports effort to bring wireless broadband to the city

NEW YORK — Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr made the following 
remarks today at a rally outside Verizon headquarters in Manhattan:

High-speed Internet service is no longer a luxury. As it becomes a 
necessity for all Americans, control of this vital service has fallen 
into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations.

This consolidation of broadband power is not through the natural ebb and 
flow of the free market, but through political influence-peddling by 
corporations who seek to monopolize the multibillion-dollar industry.

Today, we stand before the headquarters of one of the biggest 
influence-peddlers of them all.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Verizon Communications 
Inc. has spent more than $12 million on political candidates and party 
committees since 1998. Add to this the more than $82 million Verizon 
spent on political lobbyists.

For New Yorkers, Verizon's million-dollar shopping spree means fewer 
choices, higher costs and slower speeds.

It's the same across the country. Over the past two years, this company 
has bought up politicians in statehouses, Congress and the FCC to 
support Verizon-friendly policies that eliminate ISP competitors, squash 
local broadband alternatives and bar towns and cities across the country 
from providing citizens their own high-speed Internet services.

American broadband prices have not declined and speeds have not 
increased. That's unheard of in a technology market unless it's monopoly 

Over the same time, America has dropped to 16th in the world in 
broadband penetration, falling behind countries such as South Korea, 
Canada and Japan – nations that have drafted national broadband 
policies, which involve strong public-private sector initiatives, open 
access and healthy competition.

Broadband Reality Check – a report just released by Free Press, 
Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America – reveals that 
the cost of broadband in other countries has dropped dramatically while 
speeds have increased. On a per megabit basis, U.S. consumers pay 10 to 
25 times more than broadband users in Japan.

The fallout from Internet price-gouging is a growing digital divide in 
cities like New York and across the country. Today, 200 million 
Americans are without high-speed Internet services. More than 5 million 
of those without broadband are New Yorkers.

The growing digital divide is the direct result of Verizon-purchased 
policies that stifle competition in the name of deregulation. But 
there's no deregulation going on. Instead, the future of communications 
is being regulated on behalf of telecom and cable giants like Verizon, 
Comcast, Time Warner and SBC.

These are policies that were bought and paid for by companies that have 
only one interest in mind.

You see, Verizon is not in the business of "working for you," as their 
ads claim.

Verizon is in the business of selling out customers to line their pockets.

And it's beginning to show.

The rising cost of broadband combined with spotty services for urban and 
rural communities has resulted in declining customer faith in telecom 
companies like Verizon. These companies now rate at the bottom of this 
year's American Consumer Satisfaction Index. The problem for frustrated 
customers is they have few other choices for broadband. For New Yorkers 
wanting DSL, indeed, it's Verizon or the highway.

As Verizon buys up politicians to loosen oversight and consolidate the 
broadband industry, costs escalate, the digital divide widens and 
customer service declines.

That's why hundreds of cities, towns and neighborhoods across the 
country are building their own broadband networks, scrapping the shoddy 
service and high prices of the telecom and cable companies.

These "Community Internet" projects are being developed from 
Philadelphia to Portland, San Francisco to Chicago. They're already up 
and running in small towns like Scottsburg, Indiana and Chaska, Minnesota.

But why not in New York?

Fortunately, we have committed community leaders like Andrew Rasiej — a 
man who is determined to provide New Yorkers with a broadband alternative.

Andrew's plan for citywide wireless service recognizes that New Yorkers 
need more broadband choices. He understands that we need to break down 
price-gouging monopolies and build up a low-cost wireless Internet 
system for all New Yorkers.

Rasiej's plan for Wi-Fi New York is based on the experiences of 
Philadelphia and other municipalities that developed unique 
public-private partnerships that bridge the digital divide. A similar 
network here in New York would provide basic broadband service for $20 a 
month, with discounts for low-income residents and students.

The only way this situation is going to change is with leaders who 
understand that technology is critical to communities and enact policies 
that get everyone connected in the Information Age.

It's time New Yorkers had the courage to stand up against Big Telecom 
and fight for our right to get connected. Supporting community internet 
projects like Wi-Fi New York is one way we can win.


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