To im­prove broad­band ac­cess, ex­plore all op­tions

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - By Michael J. San­torelli Michael J. San­torelli is the di­rec­tor of the Ad­vanced Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Law & Pol­icy In­sti­tute at New York Law School. is an is­sues-ori­ented col­umn that ap­pears on the edi­to­rial page each day. Writ­ers must have some back­ground or ex

What is the best way to im­prove broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity?

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers across New York have been search­ing for an­swers to this ques­tion for years. Re­search in­di­cates that the most suc­cess­ful ap­proaches are those that de­rive from com­pre­hen­sive, col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­am­i­na­tions of spe­cific broad­band chal­lenges.

Re­cent pro­pos­als in Erie County il­lus­trate the sig­nif­i­cant down­sides of for­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion in fa­vor of lock­ing in on a par­tic­u­lar ap­proach from the out­set.

For some, bor­row­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to build a coun­ty­wide gov­ern­ment-owned broad­band net­work might seem like a vi­able so­lu­tion, but a closer look re­veals sev­eral weak­nesses. In gen­eral, large-scale gov­ern­ment-owned broad­band projects usu­ally strug­gle. A statewide project in Ken­tucky was once pitched as a sure­fire way to bring broad­band to ru­ral ar­eas. Un­for­tu­nately, the project is $100 mil­lion over bud­get and be­hind sched­ule. It also re­mains to be seen whether the net­work will achieve its pri­mary goal of en­cour­ag­ing last-mile de­ploy­ment by pri­vate ISPs.

In Erie County, some have ar­gued that the South­ern Tier Net­work, a fiber net­work jointly de­ployed by Che­mung, Schuyler and Steuben coun­ties, of­fers a po­ten­tial blueprint. That sys­tem, though, is likely un­repli­ca­ble. More than 80 per­cent of its $12 mil­lion cost was un­der­writ­ten by Corn­ing, a ma­jor fiber pro­ducer based in the South­ern Tier. More im­por­tantly, nearly eight years af­ter its launch, the net­work has yet to achieve its con­nec­tiv­ity goals. In­deed, a 2018 re­port pre­pared for Che­mung County con­cluded that the county “con­tinue[s] to lag be­hind many more ur­ban­ized coun­ties” when it comes to broad­band ac­cess.

View­ing a gov­ern­ment-owned net­work as a panacea for Erie County’s broad­band chal­lenges also ob­scures the more nu­anced is­sues fac­ing dis­crete com­mu­ni­ties. Buf­falo, for ex­am­ple, is grap­pling with lower-than-av­er­age broad­band adop­tion rates..

Other com­mu­ni­ties in Erie County could ben­e­fit from ad­di­tional com­pet­i­tive of­fer­ings, an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion ow­ing in large part to Ver­i­zon’s de­ci­sion to stop de­ploy­ing FiOS. And some com­mu­ni­ties re­main with­out ac­cess to any broad­band con­nec­tion, a truly un­ac­cept­able sit­u­a­tion.

Suc­cess­fully ad­dress­ing these is­sues will re­quire con­sid­er­able de­lib­er­a­tion by all stake­hold­ers – pub­lic of­fi­cials, com­mu­nity groups, ISPs, and other pol­icy ex­perts – to gen­er­ate tar­geted strate­gies that will have an im­pact.

Im­prov­ing broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity in the county also re­quires col­lab­o­ra­tion to gen­er­ate a more gran­u­lar un­der­stand­ing of the real-world chal­lenges fac­ing com­mu­ni­ties and ISPs. The edi­to­ri­als on this page rep­re­sent the opin­ion of The Buf­falo News edi­to­rial board. Mem­bers are Pub­lisher and Pres­i­dent War­ren T. Colville; Edi­tor Michael K. Con­nelly; Edi­to­rial Page Edi­tor Kevin S. Wal­ter; and edi­to­rial writ­ers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Con­nors.

An­other Voice

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.