Hawkins Calls for Public Broadband Utility with End of Net Neutrality and ATT- Time Warner Merger
For immediate release, June 14, 2018
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, called today for the creation of a public broadband utility by New York State.
On Monday, the federal regulation enforcing net neutrality ended. New neutrality required internet service providers to treat all communications equally. Now private companies can favor some content over others, change extra fees for access to certain sites, and block certain websites and services.
“With the demise of net neutrality, which effectively regulated ISPs as common carrier public utilities, it is time to restore net neutrality for New Yorkers on a publicly-owned broadband system,” Hawkins said Thursday.
On Tuesday, a federal court approved the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, reducing an already concentrated market from four to three giant firms. 50 million Americans have access to only one ISP and more than half only have a choice of two providers. Many rural and inner city residents and business still do not have access to high-speed internet.
“Public ownership is justified when markets are monopolized,” Hawkins said. “Internet access with net neutrality must become a right if freedom of speech is to have any practical reality with today’s communications technologies. Now is the time to secure this right through a public broadband utility, operating at cost for public benefit and not for private profit. Its mission should be to provide faster connections at lower rates with net neutrality to every community in the state.”
The American Civil Liberties Union recommends public broadband to secure net neutrality and privacy protections that are no longer required of private companies by federal policies.
Hawkins said that the major ISPs in New York State have failed to provide high-speed connections to many rural and poor inner city communities. He noted that the Attorney General had sued Spectrum-Time Warner for failing to deliver promised internet speeds and reliability.
In Hawkins’ home town of Syracuse, Verizon cherry-picked the affluent Syracuse University neighborhoods for high-speed fiber optic service (FiOS) lines after initially promising to build out the system citywide. Hawkins said that after Verizon failed to provide the promised internet speeds to the Green Party office on the low-income South Side of Syracuse because its infrastructure would not support it, Verizon demanded an exit fee for discontinuing the service. The Time-Warner franchise in Syracuse continues to be grandfathered in by the Public Service Commission ten years after it expired even though many in the community complain it has not fulfilled the public access provisions in the franchise agreement for decades.
A study by Harvard University researchers published earlier this year found that community broadband networks charge substantially lower rates than their private-sector counterparts. More than 750 communities nationwide already provide public broadband.
Hawkins said the state broadband utility should be structured as a federation of community broadband networks to combine democratic local control with the efficiencies of scale that statewide coordination of financing and purchasing could provide.