Moving to Rochester in 2009 I was a bit shocked to hear that the local cable company was considering Rochester NY as a "test market" for capped Internet services. More specifically, they had planned to change their contracts to metered Internet services, which means they can charge you more for large bandwidth usage. This is NOT a common business practice among any Internet service providers. With more and more services moving online, such as streaming movies from Netflix and VOIP telephone service from Vonage, this change could have had a serious impact on a modern family's telecommunication costs. Of all the places, why were they making this decision for Rochester NY? The answer was clear, lack of competition meant that they had a captive audience with little risk of financial downside. You could easily consider this exploitation, bordering on monopolistic behavior. Luckily, there was a strong citizen response. Websites started up (see this one). Petitions were signed and forums lit up with people begging for Verizon to bring FIOS to Rochester NY so that Time Warner and Frontier would feel some competition and improve their offerings. Someone even started a Facebook page devoted to bringing FIOS to Rochester NY. And from the sad-and-lonely department of HOW DOES OUR GOVERNMENT EVER REALLY HELP US IN PRACTICAL WAYS, I am pleased to point out how Senator Schumer took a stand against Time Warner's plans. This brings me to my larger point.
What is happening to the state of Rochester NY internet services?
At first I thought that our city was just too small of a market for Verizon FIOS (or any Rochester FIOS service). But not so. Strangely, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany all have FIOS service. What? But look at the service maps closely and you see that Verizon is in those markets, and Frontier is not. WAIT - I thought big business always repressed competition and ended up in poorer service / higher prices? In a weird twist, it seems that we have the opposite. At least that's how it seems. Frontier Communications used to be Rochester Telephone. So you would expect them to be very supportive of their local community. But they were bought and merged into a larger organization several years ago. Now you have Frontier officials telling Western NY that we don't need higher bandwidth speeds.
Verizon clearly doesn't agree. And the President doesn't agree
If you watched the State of the Union then you know the emphasis that was placed on expanding our infrastructure and high-speed Internet capabilities. Frontier will argue that they are helping that cause with their DSL service. But what about keeping up with the Chinese? And more back on point, why can people in Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany NY have FIOS but Rochester NY is somehow excluded? Just odd.
As a passionate Rochester NY advocate, I need to get on my soap box a bit here. I have been in the technology field for over 15 years. I was a FIOS customer in Washington, DC.
Rochester NY needs FIOS to be considered by high-tech companies
It's a problem people. When I started my latest start-up business in Arlington, VA, I hosted our 10 web servers in our basement through a FIOS connection. Yes, in my basement. The lack of bandwidth and decreased reliability would have made that low-cost launch impossible for me in Rochester due to a lack of FIOS. That's a real-world scenario in which Rochester loses. Luckily, I ended up moving a branch office here anyway (bringing jobs with it), but that almost didn't happen. And why? Not because of any legitimate demographic or geographic reasons. No. We are without FIOS due to a lack of competition. It's enough to make me want to start my own FIOS service here in Rochester NY. Hey wait, that's probably how Rochester Telephone was started in the first place ;-)