Rural Access To Broadband Internet Focus Of State Hearing

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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – State lawmakers lead a hearing in Albany Wednesday that focuses on rural access to broadband, an issue the state has tried to improve.

There has been some progress in connecting some rural areas of upstate New York to broadband. A state initiative invested $50 million in broadband expansion four years ago. And recently, the Federal Communications Commission authorized matching funds for companies to expand broadband access to certain areas.

But state Senator Rachel May (D-Syracuse), who’s leading the hearing, said the additional money hasn’t solved all the issues.

“A lot more people are covered now than there were in 2015 when that started. But what we’re hearing is that not everybody who even the state thinks is covered, is really covered,” said May. “So we need to find that out. We need to find out where the problems are and come up with a solution.”

For example, May said many people still don’t have the connections they need in Madison County, especially in the Town of Lebanon.

“You have people who have businesses and they’re trying to process transactions and their internet goes down 100 times a day or something like that, where things get interrupted constantly. Or other people who are paying for cadillac service and supposed to get 100 megabits a second, and are getting one or two, so they’re paying for something they’re not receiving.”

May said the state needs to pinpoint the issues before it can come up with any solutions. That could range from working with utility companies, to creating municipal broadband networks. Ultimately, she said it’s time the state changes the way it looks at the whole issue of decent access to the internet.

“I think we are headed at looking at broadband as a utility rather than a privilege. It’s a necessity of modern life, so figuring how to get it to everybo