NYC's Broadband Disparity

Thursday, July 26, 2012

broadband cable ethernet

Robert Atkinson, Director of Policy Research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at the Columbia Business School, explains why some New York City neighborhoods have better Internet service than others.


Robert Atkinson

Comments [23]

will from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

I found out years ago (after Verizon rolled out FIOS to 2/3 of Brooklyn) that Verizon wouldn't install it in certain neighborhoods including mine because of right of way access. The tech said that it would never happen because it wasn't worthwhile for the company. When pigs fly, then Sunset Park will have FIOS.

May. 08 2013 11:24 PM

Nick, good to hear.

However, this is something that should have happened years ago.

For laughs, go here: make sure only "Fiber to the end user" is selected and zoom in to the tri-state area. Granted, the data says its from December, but it's a really good illustration. (here's a screenshot just in case it's hard to get there: ).

That said, going from one choice to two in one market in the US isn't going to change much.

Jul. 26 2012 06:23 PM
Nick Sbordone from NYC Dept. of Information Technology & Telecommunications

Responding to commenter Tom's post above re: lack of competition among cable providers being due to "territories." It's actually not entirely true. While Time Warner Cable (Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and western Brooklyn) and Cablevision (southern Brooklyn and the Bronx) each have areas they serve, Verizon is now building its FiOS network citywide. This was alluded to by a few other commenters.

The City of New York announced this agreement in 2008 (link below), with build to be complete by mid-2014; that's every household in the five boroughs passed in about six years. Through the end of 2011, the network stands at approximately 2/3 complete. There are also provisions in the contract to ensure Verizon can't cherry pick only the more affluent areas before reaching other neighborhoods with FiOS.

This is noteworthy for a few reasons, not least because there's now direct, head-to-head competition in the New York City cable market for the first time in history. Most New Yorkers today -- and inside of two years, ALL New Yorkers -- will have a choice between either Time Warner and Verizon FiOS, or between Cablevision and Verizon FiOS.

Hope that helps to clarify, thanks.

Jul. 26 2012 05:08 PM

Sorry, took a little longer than expected (thanks, DSL!):

Start at slide 11, which sums up why their access is far superior. It's a combination of governments ordering monopolies to unbunndle existing lines, and municipalities investing in their own infrastructure. Hence, many internet providers are able to compete!

Would you like to cry? Read this:

Apparently, AT$T and Verizon have some skin in the UK unbundling game; they support government intervention here so they can compete, yet they believe it would be a "mistake" in the US.

Just as in healthcare, government intervention allows a truly free "free market."

Jul. 26 2012 12:26 PM

The guest's argument about the US being very large thus having low broadband penetration is bogus. Even in highly populated areas, like NYC, broadband is terrible. That's not to say there's no bandwidth available in New York... many undersea cables terminate here, plus many internet companies are based here and have made huge investments in their infrastructure.

Just a few things in no particular order:

- Lack of competition (time warner/cablevision and verizon fios have territories, so they're generally the only option in most areas)

- High cost of digging up the "last mile." companies don't want to upgrade their infrastructure between distribution points and your home/apt since it costs money (digging up streets, negotiating with building owners) and they have to be sure they'll get their money back in subscriptions. This is why FIOS generally only shows up in wealthier areas where they know they can get their investment back.

-Content companies owning an interest in content distribution (broadband). Why would Time Warner or Comcast want to provide faster speeds if they will benefit negatively from new distribution models (netflix/hulu/piracy)? Some companies own TV networks, but all of these companies also provide a competing (and much higher margin) cable TV service.

You might see some references to the government giving these companies massive amounts of money to build the infrastructure in the 1990's... that money was spent on buying wireless spectrum and putting up cell towers.

Jul. 26 2012 11:54 AM
Josh from Clinton Hill Brooklyn

Anyone know whether or not Verizon will be stringing lines for small/individual residential service? I know that they have laid the main
trunk line a block away, but can't get service since I live on a brownstone block . I have had a lot of trouble with TWC cable over the years, but it's my only option.

Jul. 26 2012 11:52 AM

Robert, if you check back in 5 minutes, I have a great link that describes European broadband infrastructure vs the US...

Jul. 26 2012 11:49 AM
Micheal from Manhattan

I al a consultant who works with digital asset companies in Chelsea
I am thinking a lot of building owners cooperate with TWC to keep out other high speed solutions... TWC is really bad for business users as they prioritize and make more money from residential.. so I installed a system that falls over between DSL and TWC ....

Jul. 26 2012 11:45 AM
Robert from NYC

Huh, monopoly and support of the big businesses we all despise but support out of sheer laziness.

Jul. 26 2012 11:44 AM
Robert from NYUC

So too is most of Europe's broadband higher capacity and much lower prices. As most other things the US is behind and has lots of crap to deal with. We really aren't the greatest place in the world, we're about ok and losing ground in many areas. Still no direct train service to our NYC airports... my choice of measurement for how not great we are.

Jul. 26 2012 11:43 AM
OAR from Sunset Park

Sunset Park has had notoriously inadequate cable infrastructure due to population density and aging lines. Time Warner suffers from dropped packets during peak hours and events when folks are using their digital cable boxes.

Verizon has for the most part neglected to roll out FIOS in the neighborhood. After some public shaming they've sent out reps aiming to gain right-of-way to string fiber through yards, but it has been years and we've little to show for it. I've concluded that Verizon believes Sunset Park is too broke for their service.

Jul. 26 2012 11:42 AM
Mike C from Manhattan

I have FIOS Quantum I get 150 mb down and 65 mb up with extreme cable and phone

I could get 330 down That's pretty cool

Jul. 26 2012 11:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I only went from DSL to broadband to be able to watch movies and play online video games. And faster downloading of video games. If you only need email and internet surfing, DSL and even old modems is good enough.

Jul. 26 2012 11:41 AM

I'm in Greenpoint and have had the same DSL since 2005. I have no high speed options other than Time Warner who really thinks I seem to also want a land line phone and cable tv! So I give up trying.

Jul. 26 2012 11:41 AM
Mark from Chinatown

I suspect Manhattan Chinatown is one of those neighborhoods where connectivity is poor. My DSL service comes through a loose wire that runs half a block over rooftops, down the side of my building and into my apartment through a window. Whenever it rains, the connection gets spotty. I've been up on the roof with the local Verizon tech, and he just shrugs. I'm the only Verizon customer in my building, so they're not likely to do anything about it.

Jul. 26 2012 11:40 AM
lcruz from brooklyn

I have great internet service in bushwick, 50Mbs symmetrical

Jul. 26 2012 11:39 AM
MattyMac from Forest Hills

I moved out of Greenpoint about 4 years ago, and I remember it having already been an issue for years at that point.

Always slow, but around 3:30p every weekday it would crash - I assumed all the kids coming home from school and overwhelming the system.

The service was provided by TimeWarner

Jul. 26 2012 11:39 AM
kathryn from Brooklyn

We have called Time Warner many, many times because despite paying for fast access, the internet speed slows down at night and on the weekends in Greenpoint. Time Warner doesn't really want to admit that its a problem in the neighborhood.

Jul. 26 2012 11:38 AM
Salma from NY

Hi Brian,

My business is in a building on Union Square and our internet options are dismal. We have a choice between Verizon DSL and Time Warner, both whose upload and download speeds are highly limited. For a digital photo based company, we need to transfer very large files, which take hours to send. Granted, we are finally getting FIOS in a couple of months, but on Union Square in a business zoned building, you would expect more.

Jul. 26 2012 11:38 AM

metro and lorimer in williamsburg still slow, both cable and internet is slow. My cable picture gets all pixilated and blacks out several times an hour

Jul. 26 2012 11:38 AM

I picked my new apartment (in May) based on internet access and reliability as the #1 priority.
Ended up abandoning TW Cable entirely and searched all neighborhoods in Manhattan for Verizon Fios availability.
TWC proved to be inconsistent literally from building to building.

Jul. 26 2012 11:36 AM
fuva from harlemwold

Oh, I KNOW service is shoddy in the hood. Cable too.

Jul. 26 2012 11:36 AM

Can it be the same reason some NYC neighborhoods have better (i.e. drinkable) water than others?

Jul. 26 2012 11:02 AM

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