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Summit Will Promote Improved Internet Access In The Finger Lakes

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Bridging the internet access gap in the Finger Lakes is the focus of a summit today in Geneva.

The Finger Lakes Digital Inclusion Coalition is meeting to discuss how a lack of internet access at home can affect communities in the region.

Lauren Moore is the executive director of the Pioneer Library System and says access is an issue of internet not reaching some rural communities, and one of cost.

"We can see that when we look at maps of broadband access across the region. That even in cities like Geneva and Canandaigua where that infrastructure certainly exists, there are large percentages of households that simply can’t afford it."

She says librarians are a big part of this discussion because they do a lot to serve those populations, making sure that 24/7 Wi-Fi access is available through their facilities, providing digital literacy instruction, and making computers available.

She adds that there are other forms of e-government programs replacing more traditional modes of participation, like the 2020 census.

“People would receive a print form and they would fill it out and mail it back, it was pretty straight forward. But in 2020 the census will be delivered primarily in a digital format. So what does that mean for people who don’t have internet access? Or people who can’t afford to spend their data plans on completing a census? It means those people won’t get counted, and that’s a pretty fundamental aspect of democracy."

With technology so embedded into our lives and as we make more choices to move more aspects of our lives to an online format, that access gap grows larger. She says 1 in 5 residents of the Finger Lakes do not have household access to internet.

"So we really have to do something as a society to make sure either that we slowdown that process, we slowdown that process of moving things online. Or we make sure that we catch everyone up so that everyone has internet access, if they expectation is that things are done online then we need to make sure that every single person has access to the internet."

The summit takes place today in Geneva at the Cracker Factory.