EDITORIAL: Address reality of state’s broadband gap

Land in Halcott, N.Y., on March 8, 2017.
Land in Halcott, N.Y., on March 8, 2017.

So New York has such high-density broadband coverage that the state can now move on from expanding its internet network to bringing down the cost?

Tell that to the kid trying to participate in remote school lessons from his home in a rural county without high-speed internet service.

Tell that to the local business that can’t sell its products because its coverage isn’t reliable or up to speed.

Tell that to the patient who can’t take advantage of telemedicine.

Tell that to the person in the broken-down car by the side of the road who’s unable to call for help.

Tell that to anyone living in a rural community where the state hasn’t yet fulfilled its promise to provide reliable, high-speed internet service to the entire state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claim in his state of the state message this week that “approximately 98 percent of New York homes now have access to broadband,”

That percentage of coverage is what the state planned on several years ago. In 2015, the state under Cuomo invested $500 million to achieve statewide broadband access by 2018.

But the reality is not even close.

A flawed formula for calculating coverage allows state officials to inaccurately boast of almost full statewide coverage.

How can the state solve a problem if it acts like it’s already been solved?

With even more people reliant on broadband due to the coronavirus forcing schools and businesses to operate remotely, the need to close the vast gaps in the state’s network is more vital than ever.

Some Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, including Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who chairs the Assembly’s Commission on Rural Resources, are calling on the governor to face the reality of the state’s broadband coverage and address the gaps in the upcoming state budget.

One Western New York lawmaker, Assemblyman Pat Burke, told TV station WGRZ that he’d like to see the state implement a plan similar to one proposed in Erie County in which the county would run fiber lines that service providers could tap into.

Part of the criticism for the governor fell on his plan to force broadband service providers to offer coverage for $15 a month to low-income residents. Lawmakers said many companies already offer low-cost service, but often not at nearly at the capacity and speeds people need.

Low-cost internet service isn’t much value to you if you live in an area where broadband coverage is weak, unreliable or non-existent.

The governor needs to recommit the state to full broadband coverage. Pretending like the state has achieved its goals just kicks the problem down the road.


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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