Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CM Brewer & Broadband Advisory Committee Public Hearing 12Dec07

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, Chairman
Manhattan Community Board 9
Council Member gale Brewer and
the Broadband Advisory Committee
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
At Manhattan School of Music

Good morning, my name is Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 9. I wish to thank CM Gale Brewer and the Broadband Advisory Committee for conducting this important hearing in WestSide Harlem.

Only 787 out of 2000 businesses in West Harlem have computers. This is based on surveys conducted for Reference USA. West Harlem wants to build its infrastructure to fit 21st century needs and serve residents and businesses.

We acknowledge that we have a digital divide - a gap between people who have access and use information and communication technologies and those who don't.

According to the Center for an Urban Future, the city's telecom infrastructure is among the most advanced in the world, and some of the globe's most technology-savvy businesses are based here. The vast majority of businesses located in Manhattan's two central business districts-midtown and downtown-enjoy multiple options for broadband.

But in many of the industrial parks and other low density commercial areas around the five boroughs, businesses continue to face extremely limited options for obtaining broadband, and often find it downright impossible to access a reliable high-speed connection.

In most cases, small companies are left with just one option: DSL. In theory, DSL should be more than sufficient, and its lower cost makes it a first choice for many small firms. But service interruptions and systematic problems--ranging from antiquated telecommunications infrastructure to an absence of real competition among providers--render DSL a constant source of headaches.

In order to attract diverse businesses, we need the latest technologies. West Harlem lacks this diversity. For example the businesses that make-up zip-code 10031 have:

67 restaurants
44 grocery stores
65 beauty salons
59 health care professionals
37 real estate services
30 churches

50% of these establishments are struggling. In our 197-a plan, we recommend a cultural arts district and light manufacturing that is more modern and sustainable. Such businesses need technology. But residents and schools in our area need more accessibility in order to prepare residents to either enter a more advanced workforce, or participate in community or civic life.

CB 9 also falls under mobile telecommunications franchise Zone B. These zones were determined by calculating the percentage of residents in a neighborhood that had telephone service as of the 2000 U.S. Census. Specifically, any neighborhood with over 5% of homes without telephone service would fall under Zone C; all other neighborhoods outside Manhattan's central business district (Zone A) would fall under Zone B. Yet our demographics are the same in Central Harlem (CB10) and East Harlem (CB11)

Therefore getting better services for our community would be more challenging and discourage minority business participation in the contracts and a lack of understanding for minority businesses needing service. The minimum compensation in Zone B is $50 per pole/month.

Because we have Columbia University, Barnard, Teacher's College and City College, it can appear that our small businesses are thriving but that is not the case. We are advocating that the northern portion of the district be re-zoned to a "C" classification to offer more parity and to help our community better negotiate for better services with qualified, established and financially sound telecommunication providers.

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