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Green Party’s Hawkins calls for state to take over Spectrum

Green Party’s Hawkins calls for state to take over Spectrum

Albany Times Union, August 2, 2018

New York’s state government should get into the broadband game, according to the Green Party’s candidate for governor.

In the wake of demands from state regulators that Charter sell Spectrum in New York, Howie Hawkins is advocating for New York to take over Spectrum for its own public broadband utility.

Charter, with 2.6 million customers in the state, has 60 days to come up with a plan for the divestiture, which the Public Service Commission says is the only way to resolve a seven-month war of words, name-calling and regulatory ultimatum between the state and Charter over allegations that the company had violated the conditions of its 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

“New York State should take over Spectrum to jump start a public broadband system that provides high-quality service to all New Yorkers,” Hawkins said in a statement. “Customers are unhappy with escalating costs and deteriorating customer service. A democratically-structured public broadband system would operate at cost for public benefit, not for the profit of distant shareholders. It would provide better service at lower cost and rapidly expand service the underserved rural and inner city communities.”

Hawkins cited a study by Harvard University researchers that found private-sector broadband options were more expensive than  community broadband networks. The report found more than 750 communities already operate public broadband, but a takeover by New York would be the first state in the nation. 

The plan envisioned by Hawkins would be decentralized and local governments would operate local franchises. 

“The state’s public broadband utility should provide financing and technical assistance to help local governments build municipally-owned high-speed fiber-optic networks and free public Wi-Fi networks that provide affordable Internet, TV, and phone service for all with net neutrality and privacy protections,” Hawkins said in a statement.

Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge told stock analysts during a Tuesday conference call that the company was prepared for a legal fight if needed and said the company wasn’t backing down from its assertion that it has complied with the PSC.

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