Push for rural broadband in NYS continues

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State Address, he mentioned affordable broadband for low-income New Yorkers. However, in some parts of the state, people don’t have broadband at all.

“COVID-19 has really highlighted the lack of high-speed broadband if anything, across our rural communities in Upstate NY,” explained Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “To hear the governor say that we are 98% covered for the New York broadband program, that’s just not accurate. That’s not reflecting what we are seeing here.”

According to Assemblyman Santabarbara, the method used to calculate that 98% coverage rate has been done by using census blocks, which he says is an old practice. “There could be anywhere between 240 and 1200 homes in these census blocks, and even if one out of the 1200 is served, they consider that to have high-speed broadband service. That is not reality.”

In his congressional district, the Duanesburg area has over 200 households that are without broadband according to the Duanesburg Broadband Committee.

The lack of broadband isn’t just a local problem, but one that is statewide and has been impacting school districts and students.

“From the administrator’s standpoint, from the teacher’s standpoint, it frustrates a lot of students who are trying. But I think, oftentimes, their experience is like, when you sign on to something and don’t have a good signal, it’s very choppy. The audio and the visual don’t sync, necessarily, so they can’t follow the lessons. What’s happened is that it has contributed to what we refer to as the missing children. The kids that are not simply showing up to get online, or they’re getting online and then giving up. So their seat time for education is diminished and of a lesser quality,” explained Kevin Casey, Executive Director of School Administrators Association of New York State.

Assemblyman Santabarbara said that for families of students who don’t have broadband, remote learning has been costly. “In these areas, it’s a very unfortunate situation,” he explained. “They’ve had to use cellphone data off their cell phones to have their kids be able to do their remote learning, and as you can imagine, those data caps once you break them, it becomes very expensive.

Both Santabarbara and the Duanesburg Broadband Committee have submitted letters to the governor about this issue. The Assemblyman says he will keep fighting for this problem to be resolved.

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