Lack of Internet Access Plagues Connecticut

A report by the Office of Consumer Counsel found the state's businesses to be hampered by low speeds, poor quality and high prices.

by Lee Howard, The Day / January 26, 2016

(TNS) — A report on statewide broadband service released Monday by the Office of Consumer Counsel found Connecticut businesses are hampered by low speeds, poor quality and high prices.

The report, "A Brief Overview of Broadband Deficiencies in Connecticut," compiled by CTC Technology & Energy in Washington, said businesses in the state often have to pay $10,000 to $30,000 to connect to higher-quality services. And after doing so, the monthly charges can be $1,000 to $2,000 — much higher than for similar services in other urban areas around the country.

The report surveyed businesses in Hartford as well as rural areas in northwestern Connecticut for what it called "a small sample of broadband customer experiences." State Comptroller Kevin Lembo hailed the report for detailing challenges faced by businesses and residents in obtaining adequate and reasonably priced broadband services.

"This report confirms what I have already heard from Connecticut businesses, large and small — that access to necessary technology infrastructure is largely unaffordable or unattaintable throughout the state," Lembo said in a statement.

Lembo said technology infrastructure investment "is absolutely imperative to both attract businesses to Connecticut and to keep existing industries from leaving."

Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz said in releasing the report that she was hoping to spur the introduction of higher-speed Internet access in Connecticut to keep the state competitive. The long-term goal, she said, was to see new optical fiber networks statewide that could reach gigabit speeds and cost only $70 to $100 a month, as have been seen with Google Fiber introductions as well as municipal networks.

"In the current digital economy, with the pace of innovation and technology increasing exponentially, we need to take immediate steps to address these broadband deficiencies so Connecticut can continue to foster its culture of innovation and its investments in advanced technologies such as bioscience and high-tech manufacturing,” Katz said in a statement.

The broadband report noted that the Web hosting service Akamai, in its latest third-quarter 2015 report on the State of the Internet, said that Connecticut's average connection speed was down nearly 9 percent — the largest drop for any state. And Connecticut had the nation's only decline in peak speeds.

The report said that anecdotal information indicates that both Comcast and Frontier Communications, the two biggest broadband providers in the state, are "not acting on requests to expand service availability or speeds to businesses that are specifically requesting new and better service."

Both Frontier and Comcast questioned the conclusions of the report.

Frontier, in a statement, said the report "egregiously misrepresents Connecticut’s highly competitive broadband landscape and the broad availability of high speed broadband services in the state."

Frontier said that since it acquired AT&T's former broadband business in Connecticut two years ago, it has "provided thousands of residential and business customers with the ability to access high-speed Internet service that is substantially faster than previously available," adding that it "has recently unveiled our fiber-optic, Gigabit-capable residential Internet connection" and has announced "plans to invest $480 million in our state network over three years."

Comcast said it has increased Internet speeds 16 times in the past 14 years and that nearly three-quarters of its customers have speeds above 50 Mbps. Data-based businesses are offered Ethernet services that provide speeds meeting or exceeding the OCC's hoped-for target, the company added.

"Comcast is providing CURE Innovation Commons (an incubator currently being developed at the Pfizer Inc. campus in Groton) ... with 1 Gigabit of Internet service," Comcast said in a statement. "We are proud to provide advanced communication solutions to help businesses of all sizes be more productive."

©2016 The Day (New London, Conn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.