Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration Tuesday will make a request for information from companies interested in helping it expand broadband internet access, an action that could challenge cable giant Charter Communications Inc.’s market dominance in New York City.
The request, which is generally the first step before issuing a formal request for proposal, invites internet service providers and other industry stakeholders to advise the city on how it can reach its goal of having affordable, high-speed internet access citywide by 2025.
The request is meant to “maximize the benefits of competition,” according to a draft reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“We are utilizing every approach to engage with partners that share our vision to expand citywide broadband and constructively inform the process,” said Miguel Gamiño, Jr. , New York City chief technology officer. “One thing we know for sure is that business as usual won’t work, which is why we’re keeping the door open to new ideas that will help us achieve success in this critical endeavor.”
“Our products and services provide the highest quality at competitive prices,” he said.
Critics have said the company, which is known to its customers as Spectrum, operates as a virtual monopoly in New York City. It is embroiled in a labor dispute with its workers, who went on strike in March after the company sought to eliminate its pension plan and restructure medical and retirement plans for employees. The company has said it is offering significant pay raises in exchange for the changes.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who was re-elected to a second term this month and who has generally enjoyed strong backing from unions, has sided with the company’s workers.
In what some said was a reflection of that support, the city’s request for information encourages applicants to consider how they could help the city increase “economic opportunity for all New Yorkers and the protection of workers’ rights.”
A spokesman for the Local 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the city’s actions would help end what it described as a monopoly over the city’s broadband market.
“Public control of our public utilities like the internet must not be left solely in the hands of cable giants whose monopoly gives them no incentive to improve their services, keep rates affordable or deliver access to underserved communities,” said Austin Shafran, the spokesman.
One in five New Yorkers doesn’t have internet access at home, city officials said. Among those living in poverty, that figure is one in three, the officials said.
Responses to the request for information are due by Jan. 19.