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Joint Senate and Assembly Public Hearing
Subject: Rural Broadband
Purpose: To identify current broadband needs in rural New York State
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Hearing Room A
Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12247
My name is Carolyn Price, and I am speaking today as President of the Upstate New York Towns Association, www.upstatenyta.org and Supervisor of the Town of Windsor, Broome County. I am also speaking for people who make huge sacrifices because they have no internet access such as driving a 40 mile roundtrip to do banking.
My remarks will focus on recommendations to identify and reach the unserved and underserved with broadband in rural areas of New York State.
New York State broadband is delivered via wireline technologies and wireless technologies. However, we don’t know how much broadband coverage we truly have, particularly in rural areas. To continue to move forward and have access for the unserved and underserved, we need to know what we have, where it is and options to reach the unserved and underserved areas.
Why don’t we know what we have and where it is? The maps are faulty because the FCC allows internet providers to claim on Form 477 an area as served if only one home in a census block has internet service.
Recommendation #1: Work with the FCC to get a better reporting requirement so there are more accurate maps.
Fiber is the optimal broadband technology. There is fiber in parts of rural communities. Do we really know where fiber is and where it doesn’t exist? Through utility pole data surveys we could get answers. These surveys entail getting the GPS location of each pole, identifying the pole numbers, finding out who owns the poles, and determining what is actually on the poles.
These utility pole data surveys help to develop efficient fiber route design by minimizing the number of poles that need to be attached to and provide the details of the amount of miles of fiber that need to be built to complete a network.
Recommendation #2: Fund Utility Pole Data Surveys
Municipalities have not been involved in the application process for funding through New York State’s Broadband Program Office. We find out what projects have been awarded funding when those announcements are made publicly. Sometimes the funded locations make sense and other times high need areas are overlooked.
Recommendation #3: Require companies applying for State funding to describe how municipalities were involved in the application process and require sign off in the application by the chief municipal officer.
The New York State Broadband Program Office is located in New York City. The Upstate New York Towns Association had a speaker from that office, and it was a most informative meeting. The speaker was from the New York City area and was surprised to learn how bad the lack of broadband and the underserved is in rural Upstate towns. Remember the Upstate rural resident driving a 40 mile roundtrip to do banking. Would that happen in New York City?
Recommendation #4: Move the Broadband Program Office from New York City or establish a satellite office in an Upstate town or village so the people doing this work are close to the communities with the largest broadband needs.
There is emerging, promising technology such as Google’s Project Loon. Antennas are placed inside of giant balloons which are solar powered. The balloons are in the stratosphere and communicate with antennas on the ground which connect to local internet providers.
Recommendation #5: Be involved with emerging technology. Have staff from the New York State Broadband Program Office and New York State officials studied Google’s Project Loon and considered trying an experiment with this technology in a high need rural area?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about this very important topic. Expanding access to high speed internet remains a task as large as rural electrification 100 years ago. We must ensure that every home, business, school, municipality, not for profit in Upstate New York is connected with reliability at an acceptable speed.
The Upstate New York Towns Association, Inc. was formed on July 18, 2013 because there are needs and interests of towns in upstate New York that are different than the needs and interests of towns in downstate New York.
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