A New York state assemblymember from the Hudson Valley wants the state comptroller’s office to audit broadband providers. She thinks some may be missing the mark.
Assemblymember Didi Barrett has written to fellow Democrat state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, requesting that his office evaluate broadband service providers’ compliance with agreements that require them to provide high-speed internet access to communities statewide.
“So we really feel that this is something where he can help the people of the state to make sure that we’re getting our money’s worth, that the… all of these providers are doing what they’re committed to do and that we really identify where the gaps are and then can fill those in,” Barrett says.
DiNapoli says he’s just received that request.
“As you can imagine, we get a lot of different requests. We think broadband is an important area, and I appreciate the asssemblywoman’s leadership and wanting us to be a partner in terms of making sure there are appropriate opportunities for people across the state,” says DiNapoli. “So we’re going to review her most recent request, take it very seriously, and if it’s something that we can work into our audit plan, I would be hopeful that we could. But we first have to complete the other audit she asked us to do, which is almost done, which is also on the same topic.”
“I think that he and his office are really ready to look at this across the state as well,” says Barrett. “There’s too many other parts of rural New York state, and even some urban parts, that are without adequate broadband service, and that’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”
Barrett says the Broadband for All initiative, implemented in 2015, invested $500 million to expand broadband access and bring high-speed internet to unserved and underserved parts of New York by 2018, so the deadline has passed. Barrett says much progress was made under the program, but she still receives calls from residents, businesses and local officials in her 106th district who do not have access to high-speed broadband.
“Enough already. This is a basic need in New York state and too much of New York state is, we still have gaps and is missing the ability to run businesses out of their home, or for kids to do schoolwork in their own homes or not having to always go to the library to make sure that they have internet service,” Barrett says. “So it’s just, we need to get on with the 21st century here.”
Earlier this week, the state Legislature’s Joint Commission on Rural Resources and the Assembly Standing Committee on Local Governments held a public hearing in Albany on rural broadband. Lawmakers are looking at ways to expand access in this area.
Barrett is concerned New York could be at a disadvantage for the 2020 Census if residents in rural areas cannot get online. The federal government has placed an emphasis on online forms.
On the federal level, Democratic New York Congressman Antonio Delgado, who is a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband, has been working on improving rural broadband. In August, the Federal Communications Commission announced new procedures to update rural broadband mapping, which will require internet service providers to provide more granular information on where they offer service. Delgado, of the 19th district, called it a positive step, saying it will also end the flawed methodology of counting a census block as “served” if one home on the block has access to broadband.
More coverage of the legislative hearing on rural broadband is here.