“State Assemblymember Brennan”:1 has introduced “Bill A09937, the Community Access Networks Bill”:2, into the New York State Assembly. This bill is innovative in that it seeks to create “free internet access across New York State” by requiring that any local or state governments that are creating or sponsoring any wireless information networks — including New York City’s private public safety wireless network — “either create a community access network or allow for collocation of a community access network”.
The bill highlights that New York State lags behind other states in broadband competition, noting especially that 42% of New York zip codes have four (4) or fewer broadband providers.
bq. Here in New York, the effort to create free internet zones has been piecemeal, most notably private volunteer groups like Nycwireless.org (sic) have created free internet access in public places, at a handful of New York City parks. This legislation seeks to expand such kinds of access so that it can be enjoyed by all New York State residents. A statewide initiative like this seeks to create new opportunities all across our state.
The bill rightly notes that by encouraging the creation of a state-wide wireless network, “Governments and first responder groups could have a communications system which is cheaper to tap into because off the shelf components could be used to access CANs instead of other, more expensive equipment.”
Brennan highlights that “In the same way that road and shipping lanes served the manufacturing economy, information conduits and connectivity power the information age” and that “Part of the goal of government is to help people help themselves.” These are two ideas that NYCwireless has long supported and promoted. The only way to build sustainable networks and communities is to allow and help local residents and organizations to help themselves.
The specifics of the bill itself are worth noting. Brennan’s bill requires that “OPERATORS OF AN APPROVED INFORMATION NETWORK SHALL NOT EXERCISE ANY EDITORIAL CONTROL OVER ANY PUBLIC, EDUCATIONAL, OR GOVERNMENTAL USE OF CAPACITY PROVIDED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION, EXCEPT THAT THEY MAY REFUSE TO TRANSMIT ANY CONTENT WHICH CONTAINS OBSCENITY, INDECENCY, OR NUDITY.” Non-discriminatory access to content is critical to any network that is intended to help serve underprivileged residents.
But the most interesting part of the bill comes all the way at the end: “IF ANY ENTITY IDENTIFIED IN SUBPARAGRAPH (II) OF PARAGRAPH A OF SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION SENDS A STATUS REPORT INDICATING THEIR INTENT TO SPONSOR OR APPROVE THE CREATION OF A COMMUNITY ACCESS NETWORK, THEY SHALL BE GIVEN ACCESS TO DARK FIBER LEASED BY ANY ENTITY IDENTIFIED IN SUBPARAGRAPH (I) OF PARAGRAPH A OF SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION FREE OF CHARGE FOR THE PURPOSES OF CREATION OF COMMUNITY ACCESS NETWORKS OR FOR GOVERNMENT ENTITY USE.” *Free dark fiber usage if you provide free wireless network services.*
I would say that the only potential issue with this legislation, when it comes to issues of public good, is that it doesn’t define the speed of internet access that must be provided for free in order to get access to free dark fiber and free collocation. I would recommend to Assemblymember Brennan that the right way to write this legislation is to require that free wireless network internet access be provided at prevailing broadband speeds, which are between 1mbps-3mbps in New York State. This could be a boon to ISPs small and large, including Verizon and Time Warner Cable, who are having great difficulties rolling out higher speed services (TWC hasn’t even announced anything more than their existing, aging 5mbps network).
For any organization that is seeking to provide large-scale wireless networks in New York City, this legislation is even more important. The “franchise for the New York City lamp post access”:3 hasn’t seen any deployments or announcements since the original 6 private companies were granted their access. NYCwireless has sought access to this franchise, only to be rebuffed by NYC DoITT, claming that no new franchises can be granted. Through Assemblymember Brennan’s legislation, an organization like NYCwireless can get free access to this city resource.
Filed under: Community Wireless, Muniwireless, New York City, Policy