ENDWELL, NY (WSKG) — Local officials and representatives from the agriculture, healthcare, education and telecommunications sectors made the case for continued federal support of broadband deployment to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday.
During the roundtable meeting, the Chenango County leaders brought up several topics, but broadband primarily dominated the discussion.
Large swaths of rural Chenango County do not have access to broadband internet speeds capable of handling video conferencing for school or telehealth.
Melissa Stagnaro, Director of Fundraising and Business Development at UHS* Chenango Memorial hospital, said this disparity is clear since many more patients opted for appointments with doctors over the phone instead of video calls during the pandemic.
“The flaws and inadequacy of our broadband has really brought the inequity to light over the last year,” Stagnaro said, indicating that there were 10 primary and specialty care appointments over the phone for every one over a video call.
Currently, broadband developers who use federal loans for their infrastructure must provide speeds of at least 25 megabytes per second. Schumer said that minimum would be considered as part of President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure package.
“We’re going to try to make sure that it’s really good broadband,” Schumer told WSKG after the roundtable. “You need it to be strong and swift so that’s going to be in there. They haven’t written the details yet.”
Congressional Republicans are still in talks with the White House over the package.
Schumer also touted a provision of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) allowing municipalities to spend federal funds from the stimulus package on broadband deployment.
*Full Disclosure: UHS is a WSKG Underwriter