At Karma, we've always talked about what the world might look like if the internet weren't controlled by large corporations. This year, that abstract idea might be getting a little closer to becoming reality.
On January 16th, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that the state will adopt a $1 billion program that will bring high-speed broadband access to New Yorkers in underserved and unserved areas. “Access to high-speed internet is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers can reach their full potential in today’s technology-driven world,” Governor Cuomo said. Along with New York City-based initiatives like hotspots in public libraries and turning archaic payphone booths into public WiFi hubs, the Governor’s plan will (hopefully) spring New York forward as the model state for more universal internet access.
The government backing for the project will be funded by bank settlements in the amount of $500 million; the rest of the funding will come from broadband providers who must come to the table with a 1:1 financial match to benefit from participation in the program.
One of the most exciting and game-changing aspects of the initiative, aside from the fact that it will bring more affordable internet to people who need it most, is its focus on speed. Funding priority will be given to those broadband providers who can promise the highest speeds (a minimum 100 Mbps) at the lowest prices. In the most remote and underserved areas, providers are permitted to deliver speeds of 25 Mbps as long as that service is scalable to at least 100 Mbps. And according to Gizmodo, that means that New Yorkers will be able to really zip along—100Mbps translates to downloading a 6GB movie in under a minute. It’s the first state-led initiative of its kind, and it underlines the importance of not only universal internet access, but speedy universal internet access.
We're all about smashing the idea that the only way to get internet access is to buy into a monopolized system of contracts and asterisks and crappy customer service.
The idea behind Karma is that the internet should be less complicated, more accessible, and, most importantly, personal. Everyone uses the internet for different purposes and at different frequencies, but the bottom line is that the necessity of internet access has become so ubiquitous that it's a detriment for the people who go without. There's been a status-quo model of internet access for years; several big conglomerates control home broadband, and another handful of conglomerates presides over mobile internet. We're all about smashing the idea that there's only one way to do things and that the only way to get internet access is to buy into a monopolized system of contracts and asterisks and crappy customer service.
There's more good news on the subject. This NY-based plan comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent announcement of his plan to increase competition among ISPs (aka ensuring that ISP giants like Comcast can’t continue to be supreme overlords of the broadband game) through encouragement of localized community broadband. You can see the President’s video on that initiative here:
Scary fact: One in three American households don't have a choice of internet provider. They rely on the one provider in their area, requiring them to pay top dollar for a service that might not suit their needs (or that they might not be able to afford). As awareness about the issue grows, so will the variety of provider options that internet users can choose from to fit their actual needs rather than the one-size-fits-all plans than have dominated the market for the last decade. Of course, the adoption of these best internet practices, both in New York and nationally, will take time, resources, and financial investment. But the conversation about internet accessibility and affordability is finally finding a spotlight on the political stage, and that's exactly what we want to see in the coming years.