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New York's Broadband Sucks. Is Anything Being Done To Fix It?

A study came out yesterday claiming that New York has the "fastest-growing" tech industry in the U.S.

That research, conducted by the Center for an Urban Future, sure made a lot of people happy . (Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long said that the Big Apple needs to become less economically dependent on Wall Street, must be celebrating.)

This is cool stuff, and pretty impressive too, considering that the recession hasn't kept 486 tech companies from starting here since 2007, nor has it slowed venture capital. Instead, that kind of investment is up 32 percent in New York, though it's down by more than 10 percent in the rest of the country.

But there's a big problem: New York's broadband SUCKS.

The New York Times' writeup went into this a little, but the point to be emphasized is this: The study's authors gave New York's broadband infrastructure a B or B-minus rating.

This doesn't sound too bad, but when businesses are web-based, this can be as much a death blow as a failing grade.

"Though entrepreneurs in most parts of the city can access a fast broadband connection today, many of those we interviewed said that New York's telecom infrastructure is well behind where it should be for a city vying to be one of the nation's two leading technology hubs," the study notes.

What it comes down to is that New York -- despite being the world's media capital -- does not have adequate access or bandwidth to support tech companies' needs.

For example, some companies might be able to get either FIOS or Time Warner Cable, but not both, which means they can't have broadband backup.

"It's like the elephant in the room is that bandwidth here sucks," one entrepreneur told the researchers. "You should be able to walk into any building and have at least 150 megabit connection available to you. There has to be ways for the city to construct much better bandwidth availability for start-ups."

Many cited told the researchers that their internet routinely goes down. And startups who want to set up shop in cheaper, industrial districts often can't, because the cable companies would rather provide service to more lucrative residential areas. Sometimes, telecom concerns are willing to dig up streets and lay cable, but at a hefty price -- around $80,000.

The Voice wanted to see what the City and State are doing to address this. So we called the New York State's Broadband Program Office and the City's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) to see what's up. We haven't heard back. Though it looks like there are a lot of DoITT programs in place to increase residential and individual access -- such as broadband in parks and connectivity for underprivileged high-school students -- it's unclear what's being done to address these issues. We'll update when we hear back.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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