Community Boards and The Internet
Two-thirds of all New
Yorkers are said to be online. But many of them can only access the
Internet from work, a library, a school, or a community technology
center. Many technology experts believe that the efforts to cross the
digital divide should include getting more computers in private homes.
Perhaps it is ironic that if this happens, -- if more New Yorkers can
stay at home and still get online -- more will become active
participants in their communities.
That, anyway, is the hope of the members of New York's community
planning boards, and they are preparing for it. About ten out of 59
community boards have web sites, and one group is reaching out to the
rest. It is called the Prototype Community Board Website Development
Project, and its aim is to improve the ability of under-funded and
short-staffed community boards to communicate with each other and with
their communities. The program is currently supported by new Department of Information Technology and
Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Gino Menchini.
The Battle for .NYC
Community Board leaders are trying to
build support for the .NYC (pronounced dot NYC) Campaign, an effort to
secure the top-level domain name .nyc for New York City. In April 2001,
Community Board 3 in Queens passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution
that has recently gotten the support of Queens Congressman Joseph
Crowley. Now, the challenge is to convince the three NYC Congressmen
that serve on the House Commerce Committee -- Representatives Ed Towns
(10th), Eliot Engel (17th) and Vito Fossella (13th)--of the importance
of the .NYC Campaign.
Currently, organizations in New York City use generic domain names
like .com, .edu, .gov and .org to identify their presence on the Web.
However, .nyc would allow citizens to find local organizations more
easily on the Internet and bring local control to the communications
network. For example, if managed by city government, the .nyc domain
name would raise much needed revenue for the city by registering domain
names categories such as schools.nyc, libraries.nyc, government.nyc or
shopping.nyc. The domain could also be managed by a local private
sector or third-party organization. In addition, the .nyc domain name
could help to build a powerful brand on the Internet for the New York.
Currently, Los Angeles has secured the .la domain name that was
originally issued to the country Laos.
The international domain name system is managed by the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit, private-sector
corporation. Recently, ICANN has been criticized for being slow and
inefficient and lacking transparency and is currently trying to reform.
Thus, the organization has issued far fewer domain names than expected
this year. New York City can assert its influence in the organization
primarily through the United States Department of Commerce. Therefore, if
community boards are serious about the battle for .nyc, they will need
to raise awareness among communities and congressmen in the 10th, 17th
and 13th districts.
Pay Phone Update
On March 11th, Verizon raised pay
phone rates to 50 cents for an unlimited local call up from 25 cents for
a three-minute call. This is the first rate increase since 1984 and New
York was the last state to increase prices. In 1996, most states
increased pay phone prices to 35 cents as a result of deregulation in
the phone industry and recently all have adopted the 50-cent rate.
Verizon cites competition from new communications technology such as
cell phones as the primary reason for increasing the price of calls on
its 110,000 pay phones. While Verizon is committed to keeping pay
phones in communities where they are needed, the 50-cent rate may
prevent the poor from using the phones. An additional 50 cents will be
charged for directory assistance from pay phones.
Cable TV Update
Cable television subscriptions are up
three percent as a result of the destruction of the antenna on the north
tower of the WTC. Currently, about 21 percent of households get
television over the airwaves rather than through cable. As a result,
over the next five years New York City will pocket $51 million in
franchise fees from cable companies. This will help aiding in the
city's recovery from the budget crisis. For every $10 per month a cable
customer pays, 50 cents goes to the city in franchise fees.
Cable Internet Access Update
Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.
The FCC recently exempted
cable companies from having to allow Internet service providers (ISPs)
access to their lines. According to the Federal Communications Commission, this step was
necessary to promote investment and growth in high-speed Internet
access. However, this move contradicts the FTC conditions of the AOL Time Warner
merger that required the company to open its lines to other ISPs in
order to increase competition in the cable market. This highlights an
important difference between the telecommunications and cable markets.
Historically, telecom has been widely regulated while cable has not.
This may mean less choice of ISPs for consumers in New York.
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