Albemarle Kenmore Neighbors Association (AKNA)
Before the advocacy effort began, the AKNA community like many in the United States streams their data through digital subscriber line (DSL) modems over old copper telephone lines in rapid, if not catastrophic deterioration, while other nations, recognizing the public benefit, made high speed available to all as quickly as possible. In the United States it takes a broad base of public support to advance a particular cause or policy.
Wire or fiber provides for telephone communication and internet services such as entertainment media from Netflix (and growing list of others) and an ever widening range of services such as security and other home management devices. Another choice has been to add a satellite subscription for news and entertainment. Apart from the annoyance of outages and disruptions sourced to the phone lines or extreme weather, this system works at reasonable cost and meets most needs in the experience of very few residents. Releasing the consumer’s power to affect change has many pathways. One thing has become clear. This community will watch its old system deteriorate, decay, buzz and crackle or it can work diligently to acquire reliable telephone and internet services.
Located in moderate-income community the Albemarle and Kenmore is sheltered by its high quality of historic district architecture, but home value throughout the city now includes how well information is delivered on waves of light and electricity. Verizon is contributing directly to the failure of reliable cooper lines serving this community.
Correctly installed cooper can produce up to 50Mbps service. Fiber optic cable (named FiOS by Verizon and Optimum by Cablevision) is thin optically pure glass that carries information with light for low signal loss. Data moves at high speeds over greater distances. “Legacy copper “legacy” is retired, but getting installed without high end market demand is why the war began.
The result of fiber is a low cost, fast connection that can be MOdulated and DEModulated, thus the term modem. The copper phone lines serving AKNA provide less than 7 Mbps (megabits per second). Most people experience less than two. Nevertheless, these megabit packets when converted by your modem to produce what you see on your computer, television and other devices until they fail and when they do, there is no recourse (see The Trouble for a bit of anecdotal proof.)
Copper and Fiber
Copper wire transmits electrical currents and provides good speed for voice and data within a building, but from there to your phone company and internet service provider (ISP), such as Verizon or Optimum things can change. The copper cable that telecom companies such as Verizon use is decades old and much of it is not set up well. The failure of Verizon to bring optical fiber close enough to make a connection is AKNA’s central problem. The ethernet cable (pictured, top right) is only as good as the wire leading up to it.
Understanding internet speeds and bandwidths is important. Bandwidth is a measurement of consumed data resources expressed in bits per second (Mbps); it’s also referred to as maximum throughput. Fiber provides greater bandwidth than copper and has standardized performance up to 10 Gbps. (gigabits per second) Here is the tricky part, a cooper cable (e.g. Cat-6 cable similar to the picture top right) can relay 600 megahertz (MHz) over 100 meters.
Comparing megabits and megahertz is like comparing apples and oranges, but a short answer is 100MHz is equal to 200Mbps. The megabit (the apple) measures data bits while megahertz (the orange) measures frequency, two very different things, but cables like these can handle 1000 Mbps speeds (gigabit Ethernet) at 100 MHz. What AKNA needs is either material. What it does not need is the current rate of decay of the old lines.
Just like clean water the telecommunications infrastructure of our community is important. Unlike our water it is not entrusted to a well thought out public trust, it is sold at auction and licensed to corporations such as Verizon by the FCC, the City and State of New York. At a time when it is vital to think long term, the pressures from the top down, federal to regional, state and local seems to weaken the city’s broadband infrastructure. But, this is one of those sneaky problems because the majority of city residents that want access to the internet have it. They just don’t know how bad it is. In fact, the New York State Broadband Program Office, Annual Report 2012-2013 claimed erroneously that 97% of city residents had access to high speed broadband. This is wool over somebody’s eyes. The reality is very different. (See the Verizon NSA Scandal article link below)
The experience with broadband service by the city’s neighborhood businesses and residents is summed up in one word – unreliable. The likelihood of a blackout condition for telecommunications is a harsh reality as there is no backup, no hospital generator and no redundancy such as the ability to switch from a Verizon account, to Time-Warner or Cablevision or others for service. This is a public/private arrangement in the licensing marketplace; however a feeble regulatory structure allows the private sector to follow the money a same way similar to the financial crisis of 2008. It is clear the city’s largest corporations in newer buildings enjoy high speeds (100 Mbps). Smaller firms, businesses, including new tech startups located older buildings do not. The state of the corporate mind is to avoid a gold standard approach at all cost. But, it is worse than that….
In the New York City Council’s response to the Mayor’s FY 2015 Budget and 2014 Report said, “Last year, Verizon agreed to pay the City $50 million because of delays in projects associated with the Emergency Communications Transformation Project, the large scale effort to transform and consolidate the City’s 911 Emergency Dispatch System.”
This speaks to the potential of an injurious relationship between Verizon and the needs of New York City’s residents. This and the June 2015 DoITT report require a very serious of review of this relationship. It seems that instead of moving forward this corporation has decided that New York City needs to be punished for demanding accountability.