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Credit: City of Rochester

 

Last month, I wrote about our community’s digital divide. Data from the 2013 U.S. Census American Community Survey showed lower rates of computer ownership and broadband Internet adoption in the City of Rochester compared to Monroe County as a whole. Three out of four households in the county have high-speed Internet, compared to three of five households in the city. The county’s Internet connectivity is on par with the national average.

It turns out Rochester is one of the least connected cities in the entire country. Governing Magazine ranked cities with more than 100,000 people based on the percentage of households that have Internet of any kind. Rochester ranked 280th out of 296 cities. That’s absolutely abysmal.

Governing writes:

To a large degree, Internet adoption mirrors a city’s demographics. Poorer households might not sign up because of the cost. Whites also report higher Internet adoption than black and Hispanic households. Age is another pronounced demographic divides. About 64 percent of the 65-and-over population reported having Internet subscriptions, compared to 81 percent for the rest of the population.

The census data shows 13 percent of Rochester residents only have broadband on their smartphones.

There are real benefits for the city to getting more people online. The Internet is the whole world’s library – at your desk. High-speed Internet helps both children and adults develop literacy, skills, innovations and more. Knowledge is power.

Is the digital divide an issue the city should take on?

 

Links of the Day:

 

– The Rochester Housing Authority has not yet posted the job of executive director.

– We still don’t know how much the state spent to lure Amazing Spider-Man 2’s production.

– I was touched by the D&C’s story of a victim of violence who became a perpetrator. This story is so common – and so sad.

– Ten thousand tons of unwanted Concord grapes grown in New York will drop to the earth.

– Harvard has a cool online survey to gauge your heart health.

– “Do it for Utica?” Residents are not happy with an op-ed in the New York Times.

 

Stat of the Day:

 

It appears the city vote was key to Louise Slaughter’s victory:

 

Monroe County Board of Elections

Monroe County Board of Elections

 

Crazy Photo Op of the Day:

 

The city actually shut down the Inner Loop for several hours five days early so politicians could throw ceremonial dirt – that was later swept away by city cleaning crews.

 

Credit: @whec_nrudd

Credit: @whec_nrudd

 

12 Responses to Disconnected

  1. Very interesting points on being DISCONNECTED… I also wrote about our lack of FIOS back in 2011. While Greenlight Networks has started lighting up residential units in Pittsford with fast cheap internet (and no contract), nothing has changed for the City of Rochester.

    At the time, I thought that Fiber would never come to Rochester because of the Verizon – Frontier relationship. I have learned since that Rochester is ALREADY WIRED WITH FIBER OPTICS through most of the city. However, there is no residential service since the company that owns it (FiberTech) does not service residences (only business customers). You can see a map of the Fiber in Rochester on their website.

    This seems really strange to me. If we have the Fiber Optic cables in the city, why has there not been a push to bring our levels of service up to the levels already available in Buffalo, Syracuse and even Albany? I believe FiberTech is actually headquartered here as well.

  2. In many ways, Rochester is still “smug town,” that term that got hung on us decades ago. The infant mortality rate and the child poverty rate are far more damning and in need of being rectified than our connectivity stats, but it’s just another indicator of what we won’t see.

    • Fantastic response, Tim. Love it. Best part, the people probably in charge of or pulling for enhancement of internet services are the same folks receiving the Greenlight service. Consequently, they don’t really care about the rest of the population.

  3. I briefly ran a business that relied on good internet service. Prices and options, even in the suburbs, were terrible. Frontier offers nothing worthwhile (5MB is not really “high speed”). Time Warner offers at best 50MB service, if you’re in their select areas, and at ridiculous prices ($400/mo). Actually, truly ridiculous is the cost of fiber services (starting at $2000/mo) from the couple of local providers offering it. After repeated calls with Greenlight, I can tell you that they’re concentrating on residential service to wealthy Pittsford/Brighton with no plans to expand elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

    We are at the mercy of a duopoly — Time Warner and Frontier control the market. We will never get FIOS because T-W nationally has threatened to block all its content from flowing over Verizon’s networks if Verizon expands service to more cities. The threat of lawsuits and content blocking has all but stopped FIOS expansion where it’s available now, for example Syracuse.

    Do you think it will get any better once Time Warner and Comcast merge? Or how about when they defeat Net Neutrality and control both content creation and distribution, with even greater ability to determine which traffic reaches subscribers? Once these happen, they will have even greater monopoly power to control what services are offered, prices charged, and partners worked with.

    On top of that, T-W, Comcast, and their ilk are lobbying hard for national legislation that would prohibit municipalities from offering broadband services or setting up “authorities” (like the Water Authority) to offer such services. (A few states have already been persuaded to enact such legislation.) While you can take the idealistic stand that government shouldn’t be in that business, the net effect of such laws will be mostly to further increase the monopolistic control the current mega-ISPs offer.

    If internet access is the great equalizer, an engine for economic growth, a resource that should be accessible and affordable to everyone, then our current system isn’t working. (Avg internet speeds in the US put us 26th in the world, bested by powerhouse tech countries like Latvia, Romania, Macau, Moldova, etc.) I don’t know what would be best. But it’s not what we have now.

    • Excellent and cogent comments. I can also say that this extends into attracting businesses to Rochester. As companies move more and more content to cloud-based options such as backups in the cloud the cost of bandwidth becomes a prohibitive inhibitor to growth. If I have to pay 2-3x what I would in another metropolitan area (even another one in the SAME STATE) to connect my business to the cloud I am going to seriously look at whether there are advantages to locating in Rochester in the first place. We talk all the time about lowering taxes to attract businesses but taxes aren’t the only expense a business has.

    • November 23, 2014 at 6:37 pm Lincoln DeCoursey responds:

      If Frontier can’t expand its fiber optic footprint through the FiOS partnership, I think Frontier needs to seriously consider an alternative such as rolling its own fiber-to-the-home Internet/content-delivery product. Frontier’s legacy copper telephone network is increasingly irrelevant in today’s landscape. In my mind, a major push into fiber is the only realistic way that Frontier can leapfrog its cable TV competitors and regain a serious posture in the Internet/TV/phone market.

      • Frontier is too mired down in it’s copper only strategy to think big and think ahead. They always have been and always will be an old fashioned POTS company. They’re not competitive in EITHER the home non-POTS environment nor in the business environment. I evaluate telecom/data offerings for my clients. They still present incomprehensible sales proposals with all the numbers hidden and difficult to understand. They continue to be the most expensive/kb of any provider. And don’t eve ask them about fiber.

        Why do you think they bought out Verizon’s DSL/Copper? They know copper and that’s all they’ll ever be – a copper provider. They have a single hammer and all the worlds a nail to their mentality.

  4. Hummm.. That sounds like a really important discussion to have… But the point of this particularly story was to highlight how we are behind on a specific area of technology. Really, there is nothing “smug” about reviewing the statistics.

    I know resources are tight, but all I’m looking for is parity with Buffalo and Syracuse… LOL That doesn’t seem like too much to ask. 🙂

  5. You can thank the lack of competitive offerings for the cost of digital services in Rochester. Through the granting of exclusive cable television franchises, the count and city has successfully kept out companies such as Verizon FIOS from entering our market. By not supporting small upstart startups like Project Greenlight we ensure the monopoly on digital services currently held by Frontier (on the very low and crappy service end) and Time Warner (soon to become Comcast – the most reviled provider in the US) on the somewhat higher but still crappy service end. We have no other real options so they can charge us outrageous rates for both residential AND business services. In other markets – even in NYS – we have healthy competition. But the former Frontier Telephone and Verizon struck up a little deal regarding Verizon’s copper/dsl provisioning and since then there hasn’t even been a hint that Verizon might enter our market. And the city and county are too myopic to understand that if we don’t financially encourage others to enter the market we will be stuck with our backward provisioned services forever. I suspect that the city/county find it lucrative to strike up these exclusive franchise deals, and don’t want to interrupt their cash flow. And are reluctant to actually NEGOTIATE on behalf of residents for lower rates and cheaper services because they know that the providers being monopolies in this demographic have them over the barrel.

    We need to untie isp services from cable/telephone to start with. We then need to regulate prices like any other utility. And we need to foster competition to drive the price down. We’re not doing any of those things.

    • *count/County – stupid spellcheck.

      • Hi Lee!

        Very interesting comments. What exactly do you mean “By not supporting small upstart startups like Project Greenlight” ???

        Was there a decision made related to them? What can we do to push our elected officials? I agree with what you are saying. And it kills me that Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany are all ahead of us in this technology.

        • By “not supporting them” I mean not helping in any way possible to make it easier for them to compete. Perhaps granting better right-of-way, reducing regulatory requirements for small startups, etc. I don’t mean they’re being actively blocked, but they have HUGE obstacles to overcome to compete in the marketplace due to the franchise deals for cable and the way that Frontier and TWC have cozied up to the government to protect themselves from competition.

          Other things the city/county hasn’t done include making a serious bid for Google Fiber (we were qualified as a metro area for the competition) and consider upstart companies like FLTG and Greenlight for provisioning of their OWN infrastructure. Alternatively they could start their own metro free wireless or fiber options. Other cities have. It’s a competitive advantage which they could tout when attracting residents or businesses but instead they miss the boat while sucking at the corporate teat.

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