A discussion hosted by Empire Report and AARP-New York this week discussed the need for universal broadband access in the state and passage of a bill in the state legislature aimed at gathering data that will help pinpoint rural and urban areas lacking the service.
“The Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act" has passed the state Assembly and Senate. The bill requires the Public Service Commission to review available technology in order to find delivery solutions to underserved or unserved areas and publish a detailed internet access map of the state.
AARP NY Associate State Director of Advocacy Kevin Jones says access to broadband is an urgent issue and the full study and report in the bill is warranted and needed. “We’re urging the governor to sign Senate 8805/Assembly 6679 a bill that’s passed both houses of the Legislature just one vote shy of unanimously that requires the Public Service Commission to review and expand high speed internet and fiber optic services.”
Public Utility Law Project Executive Director Richard Berkley says the state measure is crucial for broadband expansion because the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t collect such data. “The kind of data that the PSC could collect is the kind of data that’s vital for economic development, it’s vital for education, it’s vital for tele-health and quite honestly it’s vital for keeping us connected.”
In 2015, the New NY Broadband Program was created to invest $500 million in broadband expansion to all areas of the state.
Communications Workers of America Northeast Legislative and Political Director Bob Master said there remain two obstacles to access. “The limits to build out. So our employer, Verizon, made a decision which no one could challenge from a regulatory perspective that it wasn’t profitable enough to build out high speed broadband to the upstate cities or to rural areas. They simply did not see that they would make enough money doing that. And then in a place like New York City you have a very serious affordability crisis. So these two things have historically been beyond the reach of regulators and there’s very little in the way of price regulation. So those are the two fundamental problems. And so we have tens of millions of Americans who are left holding the short end of the stick when it comes to broadband in contrast to countries all across the world.”
Master added the past 6 months have exposed the critical need for universal access to high-speed internet. “The pandemic revealed how vital access to high speed internet is. Especially school children, but the elderly, people in need of health services, people in need of alternate forms of entertainment because you know we can no longer go out and go the museum or go to the movies whatever it is. And so broadband is clearly now understood to be a genuine utility, something that people are absolutely dependent on.”
Audio is courtesy of Empire Report New York.