We Need High-Speed Broadband, Now!

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“I would long since for the time that no votes buy our cares;
For people that once possessed command, high civil office, legions and all else,
now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”

– From Satire X, Juvenal, ca. 100 AD

When the Roman satirical poet Juvenal wrote these lines centuries ago, he meant it as an expose of government corruption. It also represented a warning to a populace too eager to sacrifice freedom for immediate delights.

Unfortunately, rather than a cautionary alert, Juvenal’s “bread and circuses” has become a blueprint from which every dictator since has built his empire.

You can now add Andrew Cuomo to the long sorry list of power-mad rulers seeking to mollify the masses with our era’s version of soma: grass and gambling.

The what the New York Post Editorial Board called “a truly sad State of the State Address, full of empty noise and short on serious new ideas,” the nearly week-long series of announcements came down to this: New York State will close its “Covid” deficit by “finding new sources of revenue through the legalization of adult-use cannabis and online sports betting.”

“Cannabis and betting.” “Bread and circuses.” What’s next? Throwing a few Christians – er – conservatives to the lions?

Rather than looking back, New York State must look forward, and not in the way the Governor thinks.

In his Monday, January 11, 2021 State of the State Address, he did have time to say, “We have invested $500 million to successfully expand broadband access and 98% of the state now has access to broadband. But, New York will also lead the nation now in making broadband affordable…” The next day he proposed capping internet access fees to “an affordable $15 per month high speed internet plan to low-income households.”

An admirable bromide, but it’s kind of like putting the cart before the horse.

In a press release released after Cuomo’s January 11th speech, Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes said, “Contrary to the governor’s comments, broadband is not readily available to many New Yorkers who need it. Broadband is a necessity to help people work remotely, for students to learn, and to facilitate e-commerce.”

Let’s look at the Governor’s own web-site to review the numbers. He said “98%” of the State currently has broadband access. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s referring to the population (which is highly concentrated), and not actual territory.

The U.S. Census holds New York State’s population (in 2019) at 19.4 million. 2% of that is 380,000. Cuomo is therefore saying well under half a million people don’t have broadband access.

This is false, according to the Governor’s own web-site! (What, does he think we don’t know how to do math?)

The site quotes Richard Parsons, Chair of the Rockefeller Foundation and Co-Chair of the Reimagine New York Commission’s Connectivity Working Group, as saying, “Governor Cuomo’s broadband program enacted in 2015 represented a best-in-nation approach to addressing fixed broadband coverage for rural New Yorkers. Yet, over 2 million New York households remain without a fixed broadband subscription at home.”

“2 million” is more than 10% of the population, not the 2% Cuomo implies.

Or is Cuomo trying to be too clever by half when he swaps the words “access” and “subscription”?

In either case, availability of reliable high-speed internet is the key to solving New York State’s woeful financial mess (if you don’t want to rely on confiscatory taxes or the modern equivalent of “bread and circuses.”) The more independent businesses we can grow, the more wealth can come into the state. With more wealth, New York State can generate more tax revenue without increasing rates.

We agree with Assemblywoman Byrnes: “broadband is a necessity.”

Rather than focusing on “affordability,” New York State should first focus on “accessibility.”

Our coverage area, (southern Monroe County, northern Livingston County and a portion of Ontario County) is not densely populated. As a result, it’s often the last place to get things. We can understand that. Businesses need to be able to generate enough to remain sustainable.

Yet we cannot view broadband as solely a business enterprise. More specifically, the infrastructure of broadband, i.e., the fiber optic network it needs, should be treated like any other infrastructural investment.

We don’t ask businesses to build highways? Why should New York State abdicate its role in building the high-speed broadband network? It can use existing major New York State Routes as its map (e.g., think Routes 15 and 15A, Routes 64 and 65, Routes 251 and 5&20).

Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on finishing this infrastructure first? Then all the rural areas in our coverage area (and Western New York, for that matter) won’t be placed at the back of the line when it comes to internet-based entrepreneurial ideas.

That’s why we implore our readers to take a stand on this issue. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

You don’t need bread and circuses. If you want high-speed broadband, tell Albany and Governor Cuomo to make it a priority.

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Are you interested in this topic? Join us live at noon this Thursday (January 21, 2021) on our YouTube, FaceBook, and Zoom channels for our chat with Marjorie Byrnes on this issue. If you miss it, you can replay it on our web-site. To watch it on YouTube and FaceBook, make sure you’ve signed up to join the respective sites because then you’ll receive a notification when the broadcast begins.

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