The Register Star featured an article today about internet service in the county, “County dials up broadband efforts: Working with local providers and developing a map of who can’t get high-speed Internet access among officials’ goals” By Nathan Mayberg.
Counting the Number without Access Is Not Enough
It is good that our government officials are concerned with improving Internet access across the county. It is painfully obvious that Internet access is more important in our time than even rural electrification and telephone service was to earlier generations. Without Internet access people are increasingly cut off from an array of opportunities. They cannot participate fully in our culture and economy.
I want to focus on the quality of Internet access. Even in Hudson, the most densely populated part of the county, we barely have broadband service. Mid-Hudson Cable provides download speeds that are only marginally broadband. Despite their advertising campaigns proclaiming “blazing speeds” up to 5 MB/s (or for $5 extra per month – 10 MB/s) the actual service I have experienced, tested with easily available test sites on the Web, has averaged 3.7 MB/s over the last 2 years. Worse, the quality of this service is so bad that it has frequently made it difficult for me to conduct my business conferences over the Web. And, because cable Internet service is provided through a party line, when lots of people are online at the same time, the service becomes even slower and less responsive.
Some have said, “You live in Hudson, Get Verizon DSL.” Recently I have done just this. Now I get 5.2 MB/s download speeds and the service quality consistently allows for good video-conferencing. But this is as good as this service will ever get. DSL has its technical limitations. To be competitive in broadband access we need to reach for 20 MB/s and higher.
Use Next Contract to Leverage Services from Mid-Hudson Cable
What to do in the short term?
The contract between the city and Mid-Hudson is coming up for renewal next year. Our local government officials need to get involved.
- Any new contract with Mid-Hudson must contain service level standards that are enforced by monetary means.
- We should expect Mid-Hudson to come to the table with a plan for enhancing Internet service in the future and this plan should be made part of the enforceable language of the contract.
- And, the contract should address a real economic barrier to access in Hudson. We need a three tier system. It might look like this: basic Internet with 5MB/s service for $20 per month; better Internet access with 10MB/s service for $35 per month and world class service with 20MB/s service for $60 per month. In all cases the service level agreement would guarantee that Mid-Hudson actually deliver these speeds not just their current “blazing speeds”.
Hudson Takes the Lead – County Benefits
If Hudson takes the lead on this, everyone in the Mid-Hudson Cable service area will benefit. We have the density and economic power to get Mid-Hudson to improve Internet access and service. Once we set the standard other communities in the county with less economic power can tag along.