The Syracuse Community Broadband Initiative (SCBI) has received a $15,000 grant to explore the economic viability of building a state of the art fiber optic broadband network for Syracuse. The SCBI seeks to pro¬¬vide cable, internet, and phone service to residents and businesses. The network would operate like a public utility committed to the best service at the least cost; and would operate from subscriber revenue independent of tax payer subsidies.
The network could provide a much higher connection speed than is currently available. It would have the capability to deliver an unlimited number of on demand channels, including high definition broadcasting and video conferencing for every subscriber via IP TV technology. It could deliver a vastly superior product, at a much lower price.
Our local communications infrastructure is crucial to the social, economic, and democratic health of our community. It is equal in importance to our public roads, schools, and utility services. We are foolish if we, as a community, do not take the lead in securing public control of, and access to, our communications network.
Why have the incumbent telecommunications companies not brought us a state of the art network at an affordable price? They would have you believe that a fiber optic network with IP TV is too expensive or impractical to build. Yet this is clearly not the case: fiber optic cables are cheaper than copper phone lines and much easier to maintain. The switch to IP TV only requires a software update and new servers. The reason that the TV and telephone companies have not and will never provide the best network is because a fast network with unlimited channel options undermines their profits.
The telephone companies make money by providing phone service. If they were to provide blazing fast internet then their customers would start using cheap internet phones, making their telephone service obsolete. In the case of the TV companies they make money by selling content that they create, retailing channels, and advertising. If they were to provide truly high speed internet and an unlimited number of channels, viewers would turn to the internet and locally produced shows for video content causing a decrease in their stations viewer ship and a loss in advertising revenue.
One large source of advertising revenue is from campaign ads. By setting a limit on the number of channels that a subscriber can view the Telco companies create scarcity in air time for political discussion, debate, and persuasion. The consequence this lucrative campaign-ad business is a broken democracy controlled by the special interests with the most money.
The SCBI seeks to offer a venue for anyone to speak through unlimited subscriber broadcasting. The corporations with the most money will no longer be able to dominate the public discourse because everyone will have air time to present their views.
Please join us at 6:30pm on June 26th at Artrage Gallery for a teach-in on the SCBI, followed by a showing of the newly released film Industria Argentina about a group of workers who take ownership of their bankrupt factory.
This article was published in the Post Standard and can be commented upon on their website.