Poor local broadband; no choices

Sent 17 May, 2014.

Dear State Senator Espaillat,

I’m writing to ask you to make the improvement in access to good-quality broadband Internet services a priority in your work and in your campaign for Congress.

I live at 804 West 180th St. in Washington Heights. I have very few choices as far as broadband Internet service: Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS. TWC claims to offer either 15Mb/s or 20Mb/s, depending on your plan; but they guarantee no specific minimum. I have their 20Mb/s service but the average download speed I achieve is around 1Mb/s. Which is to say, I’m paying for 19Mb/s that I don’t get. (I’ve called TWC to ask if they can guarantee a higher floor for extra cost, and they won’t.)

Verizon doesn’t offer their high-end service to our neighborhood; they will sell DSL service of “1-3 Mb/s” here, but they don’t guarantee a minimum bandwidth either, so I see no value in switching.

Companies like RCN operate in other parts of NYC, and claim to offer better service, but not in Washington Heights.

In other cities, there are new services that are orders of magnitude better than what we can get here. See, for example, SonicNet offering 1Gbps, Unlimited Phone in California, where for substantially less than I pay, customers will get substantially better Internet service. Plans like this are few and far between, it’s true, and they must be harder to implement in NYC than in Brentwood, CA. My question is, what are you doing, or will you do, to support that kind of opportunity here? So that at least we’re heading in the right direction.

As you know, the FCC is currently planning to allow Internet Service Providers to charge content providers for faster access to their customers. A priori, a reasonable person could argue that this is a proper, market-based approach. Why shouldn’t providers be free to offer favored access to services like NetFlix to their customers?

The irony is of course that THERE IS NO CONSUMER MARKET for Internet service. I have no real choice! Sure, allow TWC to charge big companies extra for favored access to their customers, but let the customers be involved in the decision. TWC has a monopoly, and Verizon’s slow entry isn’t going to change that much. If, instead, I could choose the Internet provider that offered the most neutral access to web services, then the FCC’s position might, perhaps, possibly, be one that a reasonable person could support. Until then, it is crazy, anti-market, anti-consumer, and anti-citizen.

By the way, it’s sad and perverse that Democrats, including President Obama, are allowing the Republicans to stand up for the people on this issue. Bizarre. Somebody is in somebody’s pocket here. But I guess we’ll see more of that, now that the Supreme Court has decided it’s legal (sorry, that’s a different issue).

Thank you so much for your time. Please contact me at any time if you’d like to discuss.

All my best,
Matt Morgan

4 thoughts on “Poor local broadband; no choices

  1. Matt Morgan

    Just an update. We had one of those things where Time Warner starts charging you more than you were just paying, because whatever promotion ran out. We tried again to get a reasonable deal, but there isn’t one.

  2. Peter Lewy

    Please let me know if you have any suggestions. I live on 188th st. and am going nuts with dreadful non fios service from Verizon. There must be another way, but what?

    1. Matt Morgan Post author

      Thanks for you comment! I wish I could offer some solutions. I don’t think I’m the best informed person on the subject of FiOS’s entry into the neighborhood, but our co-op board members say they’ve invited FiOS into the building and Verizon is not interested. Why, I don’t know.

      Did you see the news last week? FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced that they intend to introduce new rules guaranteeing Net Neutrality, but, at the same time, protecting the monopolies that make Net Neutrality regulations a necessity in the first place.

      There’s Dish, if your building allows it and you don’t mind a nasty dish hanging out of your window. There’s Karma, which you can carry around with you but would be really expensive for most typical users as a primary Internet service (it’s about $14/GB), and anyway it’s been “available soon” for a while … I don’t know what else is out there. I’ve kind of made peace with TWC for now but I’m sure I’ll have trouble again soon enough.

      Good luck!

      1. Matt Morgan Post author

        I guess I should also add that humorously, now that Obama and the FCC are supporting Net Neutrality, Republicans are opposed, for the most part. I’m not sure if they’ve changed their minds or if it’s just who gets press.


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