An Attempt to Bring Resiliency to the Commercial Masses Leaves Some Things Unaccounted For


The office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, recently announced that the Planning and Resiliency Office is now working with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to create a new Telecommunications Planning and Resiliency Office.

The goal in joining together is to develop a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to achieve “telecommunications resiliency.”

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TelecomFirstly, it’s important to know the breakdown. New York City’s telecommunications system comprises three main parts: larger distribution centers, cell sites and, within individual buildings, cabling and other equipment. During Hurricane Sandy, the Verizon central offices at 140 West Street saw no impact—the generators and electric switchgear were raised above ground and the fiber infrastructure was not damaged. The center at 104 Broad Street, however, had its switchgear and generators inundated with saltwater, and the copper wires were submerged underwater and ineffective for five days.

While the EDC and Mayor Bloomberg’s office suggest using “coaxial” cable, a newer material that’s more water-resistant, the real solution is to go with FiOS or something similar.

Copper wiring is now equivalent to a flip phone—to be used only when it’s absolutely financially necessary, or if you’re over the age of 60. It’s also the reason so many businesses were down for so long.

But FiOS can get expensive.

Rafi Kronzon, CEO of Cartwheel, an IT services company, believes that the government will have to spend a lot more money to ensure that overall Internet infrastructure will achieve the reliability and redundancy it needs to carry on during and after severe weather.

“Initiative 8 in the report points out that ‘Time Warner Cable and Cablevision have allocated $12 million from their capital budgets to connect new businesses to their fiber networks.’ That’s a joke. What does $12 million buy us? A few buildings at most?” he said.

Mr. Kronzon says it “took years and years” to get Time Warner to rewire its building; a feat that required tenants signing a petition and a lot of pushing from the landlord. He believes that there needs to be some kind of government incentive to wire company buildings in order for this initiative to be successful.

“If only a small portion of tenants are using it, it doesn’t make financial sense. Landlords only have so much power,” said Mr. Kronzon. “They can’t force tenant to use A or B connection. If the mayor’s office is serious about it, they can give incentive to providers to wire buildings.”

The EDC and the mayor’s office also released a report detailing a plan of action meant to minimize “disruptions” caused by climate hazards by examining their impact on telecom in buildings, exploring the legal, economic, operational and other obstacles to meeting their needs.

One city official said the plan is to “increase the accountability of telecommunications providers by using new authority to harden facilities and reduce the risk of outages,” adding that their offices will find out what providers are doing now to “beef up” critical areas in the city.

“We plan to establish a team to look at how telecom is delivered in NYC, streamline city government to allow wireless providers to upgrade more easily, manage the ‘right of way’ to allow for more providers to enter the market and incorporate resiliency requirements into the contracts of new city franchises,” he said.

The report continues to state that a fair amount of responsibility belongs to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which “has dominant control over best practices for resiliency, as they have significant authority over wireless and Internet.”

City officials say that the Planning and Resiliency Office will work to develop and advocate for legislative and regulatory measures at all levels, the FCC included.