A Call for Local-Led Internet Service

by Joe Pasqualetti/Guest

Most currently offered Internet services in Oneida County do not positively distinguish our region and fail to support economic growth. Digital networking is paramount to commerce and communications in this century just as telegrams and telephones were in the last two.

We can change our infrastructure and through world-class connectivity stimulate economic growth. The AFRL and soon Nano Utica are our anchor employers and they need tools to attract employees from around the nation and world.

In the present the AFRL, its contractors, EADS, our educational institutions, and the myriad of vibrant high-tech small businesses have a presence today. These employers need employees and those employees want high-technology; not just at work but also at home.

To keep these employers growing and support the resulting growth from Nano Utica we need to build on our resources and unnoticed strengths by establishing gigabit residential internet services.

Our available services have baseline requirements and often fail entirely in places like the outer district of Rome. The FCC defines 25 Mbps download and 4 Mbps upload as the minimum speeds for “Broadband” internet service.

New York State defines 100 Mbps as the minimum standard for download speeds in the coming years. Being “good enough” does not advance our economic situation. It only keeps us from being entirely shut out of the running to benefit from future investment.

Commercial services are often decent even in places like Rome’s eastern outer district; at the same time that the Griffiss Business Park attracts employers with commercial internet service, residents in that same district can often only get insufficient or over-priced service.

Fiber optic internet service to the home (FTTH) is superior to copper based coaxial cable in multiple ways. Each connection is comprised of two fiber optic cables one to and one from each  home which means when every student comes home at 3pm service does not degrade.

Fiber optics do not generate heat along the cable like copper does which affects pole strung cables and underground cables especially around the frost line. Fiber optics provably allow faster transmission speeds compared to complex upgrades to coaxial cable networks for each speed increase.

There are further benefits but the last we will discuss is that the price of copper is ever rising and fiber optics are glass based which makes the supplies much cheaper and environmentally friendly.

The hype and growth of Google Fiber provides valuable lessons in the economic development and attractiveness of advanced networks. Google’s speeds are guaranteed to offer 1 Gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service upload and download often at $70/month.

Oneida County applied to Google Fiber (which is mostly deployed at the municipal level) in 2010 and failed to garner their interest. Are we to wait for a Silicon Valley technology giant to save us while our youth move away and our employers struggle to attract talent?

Long before Google’s “fiber lottery”, municipalities across the United States have been trying their own fiber optic networks. Many have succeeded in increasing economic development, providing affordable service, retaining and attracting residents, supporting small businesses and acting independently.

MuniNetworks.org, a project of The Institute for Local Self-Reliance tracks “Over 50 communities in 19 states with a publicly owned network offering at least 1 Gigabit services” among other networks on their community map. This self-reliance is a virtue of American ideals and well within our grasp.

This is why I’m advocating for residential fiber optics in all of Rome. The partially pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter is contingent on improved speeds of 100 Mbps by 2018 and 300 Mpbs by 2019 but that has no respect for serving every resident and only speaks to the next three years regardless of the next decades.

Our School District is in the process of considering a 1:1 technology deployment program through the Smart Schools Bond Act and is limited in their options because of the residential connectivity.

Such a program would provide each pupil with a computing device that effectively requires internet access; this mirrors the situation today where each pupil has a textbook. The District itself has sufficient speeds at the moment but the residents do not.

We should not wait for a national provider to start caring about us—we can accomplish such a network now. Within Oneida County are vendors, manufacturers, consultants and contractors dealing with these technologies every day. These experts regularly sell to and export equipment and services to national internet providers and clients across the U.S.

Within Rome and Utica are fiber optic backbone connections to regional and world-class networks. Other municipalities first must connect to regional networks—we are uniquely situated and have a head start. I am certain that we can work with them for our own municipal networks.

My focus is in Rome as a resident of the outer district, a technologist, and an employee of a federal contractor working with the AFRL. This is why I am chairing the Technology Committee in the Rome Main Streets Alliance where we host advocacy of this cause for all.

The advancement of Rome need not come at the expense of the county. In attracting potential employees we are competing with Syracuse, Albany, NYC and California’s Silicon Valley.

I hope you will join me in this effort at http://romefiber.net, http://joinromefiber.net, at the Technology committee meetings https://www.romemainstreets.org/technology-committee/ and by discussing these ideas with your friends and family.


Joe Pasqualetti is from Rome, New York and a graduate of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

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  1. Now on Love And Rage:A Call for Local-Led Internet Service | Rome Fiber
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