ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A bill calling for a year-long study of New York’s broadband access is headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
Passed by both the State Assembly and Senate this week, lawmakers want the New York Public Service Commission, the agency in charge of regulating internet service providers, to evaluate who is being “served” and “underserved.”
“They might have internet service, but at some point in time it might be non-existent,” Assemblyman Clifford Crouch (R) said.
Crouch represents constituents in New York’s 122nd Congressional District, a largely rural area including parts of Otsego, Chenango, Broome, and Delaware counties; despite millions of dollars invested by the state, he’s experienced first-hand, broadband still access isn’t guaranteed.
“You know there are percentages that you’ll hear that 98% or 99% of the state is covered, well it’s not really,” said Assembly Al Stirpe (D), “a lot of it is satellite coverage and some dial-up.”
The Governor’s Office has claimed that under the “New NY Broadband Program” which has invested $500 million dollars since 2015, New York’s broadband access is at 98%, a number both Stirpe and Crouch think is a stretch.
Based on comments from their constituents, many in rural areas, adequate broadband access still needs improving.
“Some of the areas especially the rural areas in the North Country we are finding maybe 15% of the population has access to true broadband. In a lot of places the only true broadband available is if there is a library or a school,” Stirpe said.
The COVID-19 pandemic in many ways has brought this issue to the forefront for both Crouch and Stirpe. Their constituents may have access but not fast enough speeds to handle telemedicine or at-home schooling.
If passed the bill would re-define what is acceptable (served) internet access: any location with at least two internet service providers and a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps.
“If there is internet is it adequate, you know just to put it [this study] together so we really know what’s going on, where we are falling short and I think there are great areas where we are falling short in providing internet service, *reliable* internet service,” said Crouch.
The bill if signed by the governor would take affect a month later.