Tech
Internet resources for what you need to know about NYC Tech
Five Favorite Sites For Beginners

The Topic
"Tech" refers to computers, telecommunications and the Internet, as well as public utilities such as cable and pay phone services, and the important issues that New Yorkers will increasingly face, including consumer issues, because of the growth of these technology-based industries.
The Context
New York City's 4,000 high-tech and new media companies are a $9.2 billion industry. New Yorkers are tech savvy; two-thirds of us are online. Yet the speed with which new technologies and tech-related industries have developed means that many policy issues are only now beginning to be addressed, such as how to protect consumer privacy online, ensure equal access to new technology, bring government services to the Internet, allow online trading of digital music, and tax e-commerce. While the Internet began free-wheeling, governments are looking more and more to regulate it, and New York will be among the first places in the nation to feel the impact of these decisions.
The Reporter
Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Tech.

by Laura Forlano

From Home To Community (Board). Dot NYC. Increased Cost of Pay Phones, Increased Use Of Cable TV, Decreased Cable Internet Access

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
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.


Laura's Favorite Sites For Beginners:

  • NYC.gov is New York City's electronic government portal or "one-stop government site." The site boasts more than 30,000 pages of content and 100 online transactional services.
  • The New York State Department of Public Service regulates electric, gas, telecommunications, steam, water and cable to insure that these utilities are reliable and low-cost. The Public Service Commission includes up to five members who are appointed by the Governor of New York State and serve six-year terms. The department's goal is to promote competition and streamline regulation. They offer information and services for consumers about choosing utility companies and filing complaints.
  • The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) is the third oldest scientific organization in America. The Manhattan-based Academy promotes the role science and technology in fostering social and economic development through analysis and discussion of public policy issues. The Science and Technology Policy Forum, a NYAS project, organizes public meetings, examines science and technology policy and brings leaders in the field.
  • The Internet Policy Institute (IPI) is the nation's first independent, nonprofit research, and educational institute created to provide objective, high-quality analysis, research, education, and outreach on public policy issues affecting and affected by the global development and use of the Internet.
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. established to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.
  • E The People is a nonpartisan site helping over 400 online newspapers, television stations and Internet portals bring government closer to the people. E The People is the organizer of America's Interactive Town Hall, an initiative that has collected 180,840 electronic signatures on 3,520 petitions. This Web site allows you to sign petitions and pay tickets on-line.
  • The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) is responsible for the city's effective utilization of existing and emerging voice, video, and data technologies in government operations and its delivery of services to the public.


    Other Recommendations:

    Privacy and Security:

    • The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. The center seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. It is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.
    • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces federal antitrust and consumer protection laws. This Web site includes information on consumer protection issues such as privacy and identity theft, and business and economic issues such as e-commerce and antitrust.

    Digital Divide:

    • Digital Partners is a nonprofit institute that helps create economic development opportunities for the poor by fostering collaboration between digital entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders.
    • New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) works with the private sector to generate jobs and strengthen the economy by attracting business expansion and helping the established businesses in New York. The Digital NYC program helps hi-tech businesses find affordable, pre-wired office space in New York's new technology districts.

    Intellectual Property and Copyrights:

    • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents companies and individuals in the recording industry. They work to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor, review and influence state and federal laws, regulations and policies.

    E-commerce:

    • United States Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved living standards by working with the private sector, universities and communities. Year 2000 initiatives include formulating e-commerce policy and closing the digital divide.

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