Town of Rochester Cable
Internet Improvements Urgently Needed
Online Survey to assess cable and broadband deficiencies
in the Town of Rochester to be completed by Sept. 15, 2018
Not having Internet-cable service in the modern era is like not having phone or electricity service in earlier eras—what starts as a modern convenience transforms into an economic, educational and social necessity.
That’s where Internet is now—a necessity. All citizens are entitled to Internet service that allows them to earn an income, educate their children and to participate meaningfully in society.
What is inadequate Internet service?
Unfortunately, there are a large number of Rochester residents who are not well-served with
- It is not available in their neighborhood
- Service is cost prohibitive
- The service is weak and/or unreliable
These are the problems that we are seeking to address, to the extent possible—the Town and County confront serious limitations, but we intend to muster as much influence as possible to deliver Internet access to our residents. This may be a propitious time to do so—as explained below. For now, our priorities are to get service to the first two categories listed above.
Who controls the Internet and cable?
The Federal Government, through the Federal Communications Commission, make the rules that govern the Internet. States control the provision of cable television. Companies that provide cable TV almost always also provide Internet access and often offer telephone service as well. Service is provided by landlines, satellite-dish programs, and occasionally, by microwave-dish. Towns control the franchise contracts by which landline cable companies provide service, typically through 10-year contracts that guarantee a monopoly to that company during that period of time.
What leverage do Towns have over cable companies?
The terms and conditions of a Towns existing franchise contract with a cable company are legally binding and an important form leverage. The terms and conditions of a contract require the cable company to honor those terms—which often require the provision of service to residences at a pre-determined density level. In the Town of Rochester, the density requirement is 20 homes per mile. For other towns in Ulster County, the density requirement is more demanding—30 homes per mile.
There can also be special terms and conditions negotiated between the Town and the cable company. For example, a town might require the extension of service on particular roads or require service be provided to particular areas. The town might also specify a set number of “new miles” of service be installed during the term of contract agreement. The current Town of Rochester franchise contract with Charter Spectrum has several such requirements which to-date, have NOT yet been met.
What leverage is New York State currently bring to bear on Spectrum?
Besides requiring the existing contract to be faithfully executed, Towns and Counties can also complain to the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) which regulates the cable companies at the State level. If done forcefully this can be a powerful technique. For instance, very recently, the NYPSC has threatened to terminate Charter Spectrum’s operating rights in New York because of Spectrum’s failure to abide by the agreements it entered into when merging with Time-Warner. The NYPSC also has a range of less dramatic penalties it can deploy.
Currently, the NYPSC is threatening to exercise this “extreme response” because Charter Spectrum did not deliver on the aggressive system expansion plan (extending their lines to many, but not all, currently unserved customers) that was agreed to in the merger of the two media companies. 1
Note: the merger condition was not that everyone would get service—some homes are simply to remote and extending service to them is too expensive; other approaches (such as satellite discs) must be utilized. The expansion plan specified in the merger involved adding new service to a certain number of customers.
Within the past two months, the NYPSC has ruled that Charter Spectrum did not achieve the agreed target. It has also ruled that Charter Spectrum lied in its advertisements by claiming that it had meet the terms of the merger agreement.
NOW is time for our town to take action
We think it is a good time to press hard for additional expansion of service in our area. Unfortunately, there is no list of who is not served in the Town of Rochester and legislative District 21, which includes Kerhonkson in the Town of Wawarsing. We have begun to collect names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for homes not served.
We have developed a simple online survey residents can utilize to help us accurately document access and service issues in our community.
Town of Rochester residents can fill out a simple online survey:
Residents who do not have access to the Internet are encouraged to report information about their cable and broadband access by September 15, 2018 to:
- Town of Rochester town clerk at 845–626–7384
- Residents may also email Lynn Archer, County Legislator, District 21, at RochesterNoCable@outlook.com
We would also like to hear from:
- Households that have extremely poor service
- Households that face prohibitive connection costs
If people are uncertain if cable is available on the street where they live, they can go to a library, or somewhere else that has Internet service, and enter their address on the bldlkup.com website.
- We would like to hear from the public regarding cable and broadband deficiencies in the Town of Rochester by September 15
- Depending on the Community’s response, the Town of Rochester will hold a community forum to discuss cable and broadband access challenges and solutions.
1 Recent Charter Spectrum news articles
In shocker, fed-up regulators move to kick Spectrum cable out of New York state
Los Angeles Times | by Michael Hiltzik |July 31, 2018
Ars Technica | By Jon Brodkin |July 27, 2018
PSC orders Charter cable giant out of New York
Times Union | by Larry Rulison | July 27, 2018