[Excerpt of news article by Thomas Breen, 1/14/2022]
Should the city partner with an existing internet service provider to boost broadband? Or set up its own network and side-step telecom monopolies?
Those questions are at the center of a revived city effort to at least think about how to bring faster and more reliable internet to all of New Haven.
City economic development officials and city-hired consultants discussed that quest Thursday evening during an hourlong “community meeting” about high-speed internet access in New Haven.
Thanks to the Zoom webinar-hosted format of the meeting, only two members of the public wound up raising their virtual hands and chiming in. The rest of the event featured city officials and consultants talking at the anonymous viewing public.
The hourlong event nevertheless shed light on how the Elicker Administration plans to make this latest city push for “affordable, accessible, reliable broadband for all New Haven residents,” as city Deputy Economic Development Administrator Carlos Eyzaguirre put it.
While hundreds of other cities have implemented or started working on some version of this plan, New Haven is at step one of the process: Spending money on another study. It has hired a firm called Magellan Advisers to spend the next six months conducting a “broadband feasibility study” to better understand current internet access in the city, and to recommend specific steps the city should take to improve that network.
Mack said that a September 2021 study that the city commissioned DataHaven to conduct underscored just how critical high-quality internet access is for work and school during the ongoing pandemic — and just how much New Haveners have struggled with bad connections.
He said that, of the 500 New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) families surveyed, 73 percent of parents said their student “often has trouble accessing online learning due to internet connectivity problems,” and 77 percent of parents whose children had internet trouble said their kids’ learning suffered because of it.
“I became unemployed due to the pandemic,” Mack read from one of the testimonials provided by a NHPS parent who responded to the survey. “Since the internet is used for a lot of students needs, I feel universal internet for families of students should be necessary. Why should my kid be at a disadvantage because I cannot pay the internet bill?