BBWN Bites: NY mandates $15 monthly broadband for low-income households
Also in this roundup: 'Connect New Mexico Act' becomes law; Altice USA and Morris Broadband become one; C-Spire releases rural broadband report; T-Mobile teams with Open Dutch Fibre.
New York State passed a budget for fiscal year 2022 this week with two notable mentions for broadband. The first was proposed earlier this year by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address: a mandate that all service providers in the state offer a $15 monthly plan for qualifying low-income households. While this rule previously applied to Spectrum/Charter and Optimum/Altice USA, two of New York's largest providers, it will now be required of the more than two dozen providers that serve the state (except those serving under 20,000 customers, or that can demonstrate a financial need for exception). Eligible households include those that qualify for Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, free or reduced-price school lunch, and other demonstrations of hardship. New York ISPs now have 60 days to begin offering $15 plans with minimum speeds of 25 Mbit/s. They may also offer $20 plans for speeds up to 200 Mbit/s.
Another broadband effort that made its way into the New York budget was a bill to fund an in-depth study of broadband coverage statewide. The bill previously died by pocket veto earlier this year when Governor Cuomo neglected to sign it, citing COVID-19's strain on state funds; but at the time he said it would be included in the forthcoming state budget. And so it is. The Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act requires the state's Public Service Commission to review Internet access and reliability at the census block level, and to deliver a report to the governor in one year. Former State Senator Jen Metzger who co-sponsored the bill cheered the news on Twitter:
In more broadband-related news from states that begin with "New," the state of New Mexico passed the Connect New Mexico Act, signed into law this week by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. According to the Los Alamos Daily Post, the law creates a centralized fund to deliver broadband access statewide. Further, it will create the "Connect New Mexico" council, which will ensure that projects prioritize unserved and underserved communities and coordinate with the broadband office established by the Senate companion bill." The Connect New Mexico Act was sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Susan Herrera (D-Embudo) and Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming). According to BroadbandNow, New Mexico ranks 49th in the US for connectivity.
Altice USA, one of the largest broadband providers in the US, serving over 5 million customers across 21 states, has completed its buyout of Morris Broadband for $310 million. Through this acquisition, the company will now expand its presence in North Carolina where Morris Broadband serves 36,500 residential and business customers. In a press release, Altice USA said that in addition to growth in North Carolina, the company will also "benefit from enhanced scale, operating efficiencies and further investment support that are at the core of the Company's business model and strategy, including accelerated new homes build."
T-Mobile Netherlands announced a partnership this week with Open Dutch Fibre (a joint venture between KKR Infrastructure and Deutsche Telecom Capital Partners) to reach 1 million households with fiber within five years. T-Mobile will invest €700 million (US$832 million) as part of the collaboration to build and deliver fiber connectivity. As Reuters points out, this is a strategic move, as T-Mobile competes with KPN in the Netherlands: "In March, KPN announced a 440 million euro partnership with pension fund giant ABP to speed up its fibre optic rollout, targeting customers in under-served areas."
A two-year research effort to study ways to close the digital divide in the rural US wrapped up this week, with the main conclusion being that "the key to resolving the vexing access problem is to pursue cooperative technology, financial and partnership efforts as an industry." The research was conducted by a consortium of companies, led by C-Spire, a Mississippi-based provider of fiber Internet. Other collaborators included Airspan, Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia, Siklu and Telesat. The two-year effort produced "four white papers, four case studies and four test report bulletins exploring various aspects of the challenge," according to a press release. The fourth and final paper studied the "challenges and opportunities with the third-party engagement model, partnering with local wireless internet service providers (WISPs) to more effectively serve rural areas." Concluding that such cooperation is essential, the report states that access to infrastructure at "more reasonable rates," as well as access to local knowledge through collaboration, will make for more successful rural expansions.
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor and host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" Light Reading
Here's where you can find episode links for 'The Divide,' Light Reading's podcast series featuring conversations with broadband providers and policymakers working to close the digital divide.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will present our Cable Next-Gen Europe conference as a free digital symposium on June 21.
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will stage the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference as a free digital event over two half-days in mid-March.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.