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New York State Comptroller And Lawmakers Call For An Expansion Of Broadband

Antonio Delgado Hudson
Ashley Hupfl
U.S. Rep Antonio Delgado

A new report released Tuesday shows access to broadband is still lacking in rural areas in New York. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Congressman Antonio Delgado joined local officials in Hudson to call for an expansion of broadband.

DiNapoli’s report finds while New York has made progress in making high-speed internet available, more than 1 million — about 14 percent — of households still do not have access to broadband services.

The Democrat also says it found one in three households with income less than $20,000 lack broadband at home, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic. Additionally, almost half of those without access to high-speed broadband services were located in New York City, and people 65 years and older lacked access at almost three times the rate of other New Yorkers. DiNapoli unveiled the findings in Hudson.

“There’s no doubt – I think we would all agree, for New York to stay economically competitive, we need to be a leader in deploying high-speed connections and at making sure all New Yorkers can access them," he said.

The report adds the Federal Communications Commission considers an area served by broadband if an internet service provider reports it has made broadband available to a particular census block – but that does not necessarily mean broadband is actually accessible to the location as a whole.

Representative Delgado, a Democrat from the 19th district, says one way to expand broadband access is to identify areas that are actually lacking access on a regional basis:

“We know that service maps compiled by the FCC paint an inaccurate picture of actual broadband access, because they rely on a flawed methodology – census block mapping," he said. "Where if one house is covered in a black, it is presumed all other houses are covered. This might make sense in densely populated areas, but certainly not in rural ones where folks live miles apart and in between them are farms, rivers and peaks and valleys.”

The Congressman also says the proposed $3.5 trillion federal infrastructure bill would allocate funds for the state to expand broadband.

Kathryn de Wit, with The Pew’s Charitable Trust's broadband research initiative, spoke with WAMC last year about some of the challenges in expanding broadband:

“I think that it's important to note that broadband is physical infrastructure," she told WAMC. "So, this isn't just a matter of putting a wire in the ground, putting a wire on a pole. There are a lot of steps that it takes in order to get to that place of putting that that wire in the ground or on a pole and then there are a lot of steps after that.”

The report also notes the importance of bridging the digital divide for rural and low-income households, especially after the COVID pandemic, when remote work and schooling became a necessity for many families.

Republican state Senator Daphne Jordan of the 43rd district says the broadband issue “transcends party lines.” Jordan’s district includes Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Washington counties. Within her district, households lacking broadband access ranges from about 9 percent to about 15 percent in those counties.

During the press conference, Jordan also proposed a new tax break for small businesses and residences in underserved broadband areas:

“Creating a fully refundable broadband deployment tax credit for small businesses and residences and out-of-pocket expenses for broadband network construction in unserved areas in partnership with a broadband provider would help in the costly expansion effort," she said in Hudson.