Edison seeks to end ‘monopoly of Optimum;’ council awards contract for feasibility study


EDISON – The township is exploring network options to end what they call “the monopoly of Optimum.”

The Township Council approved a resolution awarding a contract/purchase order to Millennium Communications Group Inc., East Hanover, for a high-speed broadband feasibility study and business plan in the amount of $36,750 at a meeting in March.

“The topic of internet, telephone and television around the township of Edison is certainly a hot topic,” Councilman John Poyner said.

The councilman explained the feasibility study will assess township current and long-term needs with advances of technology.

“It’s certainly a benefit for us to understand and analyze our current infrastructure of not only fiber infrastructure of the township, but other broadband options … for instance 5G,” he said.

The study will recommend network requirements and proposed specifications for what the township should consider and give construction methods and potential utility impacts since broadband is usually installed underground, Poyner said.

Further the study will create maintenance and operation review; develop route pathways and basic network and hub designs; where the networks will be facilitated across the township; estimated projections from materials, construction, splicing and scheduling; review current and potential sources of funding capital; and perform a market analysis by surveying Edison residents.

Residents expressed appreciation for the feasibility study.

Resident Elizabeth Conway said her Optimum bill increased $40 in one month.

Resident Mark Bukachevsky said in 1979 his cable bill, which was from Cablevision at the time, was $7.99 a month.

“Today it’s $250 a month,” he said, adding he hasn’t really made changes with the service since then.

Edison Mayor Sam Joshi said “ending Optimum’s monopoly in Edison is a high priority” and called the broadband study “a step towards internet freedom.”

“The best way to address our internet crisis is to create our own municipal broadband, where the township would own the fiber cables and lease it to a third party to administer service,” he said in a social media post. “This study is the first step of our 18-month plan to launch significantly faster, reliable and affordable internet in Edison.”

Joshi said the 18-month timeframe is the fastest timeline they can put forth.

“Optimum does not have an exclusive contract with Edison,” he said. “Other internet providers could come to our township, but they choose not to for the purpose of maintaining their respective monopolies.”

Currently, Optimum owns the decades old copper wire infrastructure in the township and is the servicer, which leaves Edison with no leverage to hold “their abysmal service and price gauging accountable.”

Municipal broadband – Edison’s ownership of the fiber optic infrastructure – would allow the township to negotiate the terms, pricing, speeds and conditions to users, Joshi said.

With municipal broadband, it will give an alternative for users for their internet, telephone, and television.

“If you want to keep Optimum you can,” Joshi said. “This is to provide an alternative.”