Last stragglers to get high-speed internet access

Last round of Cuomo's Broadband Program to reach 20,000 Capital Region addresses

CAPITOL — State officials Thursday announced $43.6 million in grants toward $71 million of work that will bring high-speed internet service to nearly 20,000 homes and businesses in the Capital Region.

The money is part of the third and final round of the New NY Broadband Program, which if it proceeds on schedule will give the option of speedy Internet access to virtually every address in the state by the end of this year.

In seven local counties, the project will reach the following total number of addresses:

  • Albany 3,568
  • Fulton 1,416
  • Montgomery 1,276
  • Rensselaer 723
  • Saratoga 1,361
  • Schenectady 500
  • Schoharie 1,296

The county with the smallest population of those seven, Schoharie, has such a long list of addresses because a key goal of the program was to provide service in rural areas where the installation cost was so high that private industry wouldn’t do it on its own. The rural Albany County hilltowns are another area receiving a lot of help — more than 1,000 in Westerlo alone.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched New NY Broadband in 2015 as a $500 million economic development initiative, noting that high-speed internet access is an indispensable part of the modern business world. Empire State Development has been administering it through its NYS Broadband Program Office.

In 2015, only 70 percent of New Yorkers had broadband access. 

At the end of Round I, 97 percent did.

At the end of Round II, 98 percent did.

At the end of Round III, 100 percent will.

(Caveat: Any upstate residences that lack electric service and any that are recreational vehicles will not be counted if they don’t have broadband access; about 10,000 locations in Long Island and New York City were recently reclassified by federal regulators and may not meet the definition of high-speed access.)

High-speed internet is defined as download speeds of 100 Mbps in most parts of the state and 25 Mbps in the very rural and remote areas. The state does not define “rural” and “remote” for purposes of this program, but it says less than 1 percent of New Yorkers live in those areas. When Round III is done, 99 percent of New Yorkers will have access to 100 Mbps service.

“By leveraging state investments with private and federal funding, we are building a stronger, smarter and more competitive New York poised to lead the nation as the first state to achieve total connectivity,” Cuomo said.

According to the most recent data available from the Federal Communications Commission — its 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, released Feb. 2 — about 92.3 percent of Americans and 98 percent of New Yorkers had access to landline internet service of at least 25 Mbps at the end of 2016.

Generally speaking, internet service is provided through a telephone landline or a cable TV landline, or via a satellite dish.

DSL phone lines are the slowest. They get progressively slower the farther the customer is from the internet service provider. Most DSL connections fall far short of 25 Mbps.

Cable TV providers for many years have been using a hybrid fiber optic-copper coaxial cable that provides much better speed than DSL, and can easily reach 25 Mbps. 

All fiber-optic cables transmit signals at the speed of light, and can easily go well beyond 100 Mbps.

Satellite service historically could not hit 25 Mbps, but HughesNet reached that benchmark with a new satellite in 2017. Hughes and ViaSat are now planning satellites with 100 Mbps capability and hope to launch within a few years.

Through the New NY Broadband Program, private companies are spending their own money and state subsidies to upgrade landlines to at least partial fiber. In areas where there are too few potential customers to justify  a landline, even with the subsidy, satellite internet providers are getting a subsidy to reduce the initial cost of installation of the satellite dish.

Round III includes $14.89 million in subsidies for Hughes to cut the installation cost to 72,163 New Yorkers.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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