FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 19, 2006
Schumer Unveils New Plan To Promote Wi-Fi Access In Central New York At Syracuse Chamber Of Commerce Lunch
New York State Ranked 31st in Percentage of Households with an Internet Connection—High Speed Internet is the Life Blood of the 21st Century Economy
With Wireless Hot Spots in High Demand, Senator to Propose Expansive New Federal Resources for Communities Looking to Create WI-FI Networks, New Rules to Protect Wireless Customers from Hackers and ID Theft, Federal Tax Breaks To Expand Wi
In light of the rapid growth of wireless internet access in major cities across the country, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a new plan today at the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce Lunch to bring wireless, including “Wi-Fi” (wireless fidelity), high speed internet access to homes, businesses, and communities in Central New York. New York State currently ranks 31st among all 50 states in percentage of households with an internet connection. Communities in Central New York are looking to create Wi-Fi networks in public places, and even, covering the entire region. Schumer’s plan includes creating a federal resource for local communities who are looking to create wireless networks and tax incentives for individuals and businesses that purchase broadband or Wi-Fi equipment.
“In a world that is increasingly reliant on high speed, easily accessible Internet, not having high speed Internet access is like not having air to breathe," said Schumer. "Wireless high speed internet is the wave of the future and will be the hallmark of the 21st century community. One day our laptops may be like cell phones, where high-speed internet access is available everywhere at just a click of a button. It is more important than ever for the federal government to help with the investment in high speed, universal Internet access throughout the country. Wireless networks will attract new types of cutting-edge, high-tech business to Central New York.”
Schumer today said Central New York residents, businesses and visitors do not have sufficient access to high-speed wireless internet that is critical to businesses development in the 21st Century economy. According to Federal Communications Commission data, urban and densely populated counties have far more high-speed internet providers with the vast majority of rural counties having less than three providers. According to an analysis done by ECC Associates, a internet consulting firm located in the Southern Tier, roughly 12 percent of homes in New York could not have access to a broadband connection, meaning they could not get high speed service (except for expensive satellite service) if they wanted. According to FCC data, there are 2,833,478 residences in New York connected to high speed internet lines. There are currently 797 Wi-Fi hotspots in all of upstate New York. Schumer estimates that there are 93 wireless high-speed internet “hot spots” currently active in Central New York. The counties with urban centers typically have seven high-speed internet providers and the more rural counties have 4 or less.
The presence of WI-FI networks in Central New York would offer thousands of residents and the business community, which may not ordinarily have access to the web, the ability to utilize high-speed internet anywhere. Pilot projects and new start ups are popping up across New York with dozens of other communities planning on creating networks.
Right now, most wireless “hot spots” are limited to chain restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels (McDonalds, Starbucks, and Best Western provide Wi-Fi access). However, some local governments across upstate New York, as large as Buffalo and Rochester and as small as Tivoli and Oneonta, have contracted with private companies to create wider-scoped networks to cover public places and entire communities.
In an effort to promote the burgeoning new frontier of high-speed, universal wireless Internet access, Schumer today proposed a three-point plan to bring WiFi to Central New York.
• Create a Comprehensive Federal Resource for Communities Looking to Start Wi-Fi Networks: Schumer is calling on Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to create a series of federal standards and best practices for creating wireless networks so communities who want to create these networks can navigate through any potential problems and can create a system that suits their needs. In his letter to Gutierrez, Schumer asked that there be a full time staffer employed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) acting as a federal one-stop-shop for community leaders and local governments so their questions can be answered.
Included in the best practices would be specific recommendations about size and scope of the network, appropriate prices for equipment, whether or not to charge users fees or use advertising based revenue to cover costs, and design specifications tailored to a community’s size, topography, and demography. Schumer also asked that NTIA encourage public private-partnerships between communities and service providers to reduce cost and increase access to consumers by creating a comprehensive data based of certified companies’ that provide and can create these networks.
• Establish Security Standards To Protect Wireless Users: Schumer urged the Commerce Department to coordinate with the FBI to craft a set of specific security standards to protect wireless users and prevent criminals from taking advantage of public internet services. Several law enforcement agencies have raised concerns about their ability to track and monitor Wi-Fi users who may be using the network for nefarious activities, such as child pornography or identity theft. Schumer said the standards should include methods to trace the identity of users and set up firewalls to protect users’ personal information.
• Tax Breaks for Broadband and Wi-Fi Expansion: Schumer is pushing the bi-partisan Broadband Tax Enhancement Act (S.1147), led by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), which has passed out of the Senate Finance Committee. Schumer’s legislation would permit individuals and businesses to deduct from their taxable income costs associated with the installation and connection of broadband and wireless networks. This could significantly reduce the cost of creating Wi-Fi networks and expanding existing broadband networks for consumers and businesses. This will start in underserved areas, like the Empowerment Zones, and then Schumer hopes to expand it across other communities.