Thank you . . .
High-speed Internet service is no longer a luxury. As it becomes a necessity for all Americans, control of this vital service has fallen into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations.
This consolidation of broadband power is not through the natural ebb and flow of the free market, but through political influence-peddling by corporations who seek to monopolize the multibillion-dollar industry.
Today, we stand before the headquarters of one of the biggest influence-peddlers of them all.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, Verizon Communications, Inc. has spent more than $12 million on political candidates and party committees since 1998. Add to this the more than $82 million Verizon spent on political lobbyists.
For New Yorkers, Verizon’s million-dollar shopping spree means fewer choices, higher costs and slower speeds.
It’s the same across the country. Over the past two years, this company has bought up politicians in statehouses, Congress and the FCC to support Verizon-friendly policies that eliminate ISP competitors, squashes local broadband alternatives and bar towns and cities across the country from providing citizens their own high-speed Internet services.
In the past three years, American broadband prices have not declined and speeds have not increased. That’s unheard of in a technology market unless it’s monopoly controlled.
Over the same time, America has dropped to 16th in the world in broadband penetration, falling behind countries such as South Korea, Canada and Japan – nations that have drafted national broadband policies, which involve strong public-private sector initiatives, open access and healthy competition.
“Broadband Reality Check” – a report just released by Free Press, The Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America and available at http://www.freepress.net/ – reveals that the cost of broadband in other countries has dropped dramatically while speeds have increased. On a per megabit basis, U.S. consumers pay 10 to 25 times more than broadband users in Japan.
The fallout of Internet price gouging is a growing digital divide in cities like New York and across the country. Today, 200 million Americans are without high-speed Internet services. More than five million of those without broadband are New Yorkers.
The growing digital divide is the direct result of Verizon-purchased policies that stifle competition in the name of deregulation. But there’s no deregulation going on. Instead, the future of communications is being regulated on behalf of telecom and cable giants like Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and SBC.
These are policies that we’re bought and paid for by companies that have only one interest in mind.
You see, Verizon is not in the business of “working for you” as their ads claim.
Verizon is in the business of selling out customers to line their pockets.
And it’s beginning to show.
The rising cost of broadband combined with spotty services for urban and rural communities has resulted in declining customer faith in broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast. These companies, now rate at the bottom of this year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index. The problem for frustrated customers is they have few other choices for broadband. For New Yorkers wanting DSL, indeed, it’s Verizon or the highway.
As Verizon buys up politicians to loosen oversight and deregulate the broadband industry, costs escalate, the digital divide widens and customer service declines.
That’s why hundreds of communities, towns, and neighborhoods across the country are building their own broadband networks, scrapping the shoddy service and high prices of the telecom and cable companies.
These “Community Internet” projects are being developed from Philadelphia to Portland, San Francisco to Chicago. They're good for local economies. They’re already up and running in small towns like Scottsburg, Indiana and Chaska, Minnesota.
But why not in New York?
Fortunately, we have a committed community leader in Andrew Rasiej -- a man who is determined to provide New Yorkers with a broadband alternative.
Andrew’s plan for citywide wireless service recognizes that New Yorkers need more broadband choices. He understands that we need to break down price gouging monopolies and build up a low-cost wireless Internet system for all New Yorkers.
Rasiej's plan for WiFi New York is based on the experiences of Philadelphia and other municipalities that developed unique public private partnerships that bridge the digital divide. A similar network here in New York would provide basic broadband service for $20 a month, with discounts for low-income residents and students.
The only way this situation is going to change is with leaders who understand that technology is critical to communities and enact policies that get everyone connected in the Information Age.
It's time New Yorkers had the courage to stand up against Big Telecom and fight for our right to get connected. Supporting community internet projects like WiFi New York is one way we can win.