Resident input critical for state to understand broadband availability

— Map from New York state 

This map published by New York State’s Department of Public Service shows broadband availability at the address level, with orange circles showing clusters of unavailability and blue showing availability.

ALBANY COUNTY — New York state is relying on residents with poor or absent internet access to speak up and show where broadband availability falters as the state works toward expanding access for all. 

New Yorkers may responds through an ongoing survey — which can be found at https://on.ny.gov/43KMG8p — and two remote public hearings are being held on March 27 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. that can be accessed at https://signin.webex.com/join

Those who can’t communicate online may call 1-855-NYBBMAP to request a paper copy of the survey. 

These are critical opportunities for residents to correct gaps in the state’s first level of availability analysis, which looks at census blocks and determines whether they’re served, underserved, or unserved by broadband providers wholesale. 

“The information gathered will be considered along with consumer feedback from our survey and the feedback tool included in the Commission’s Broadband Map, to develop the third iteration of both the Map and Report,” James Denn of the state’s Department of Public Service told The Enterprise in an email when asked about the public hearings.

“We encourage all stakeholders to take part in the public statement hearings to provide their input on broadband availability and affordability at address, Village, Town or County levels.”

Because census blocks typically have 250 to 550 households, according to the state Department of Public Service’s 2022 broadband report, and availability is determined by the presence of an internet service provider anywhere within the block, this means that many residents are potentially considered served when in fact they’re not, lowering their chances of benefitting from public funding. 

The latest broadband report considers 97.4 percent of New York State served, with Albany County at 98 percent — numbers that might be discouraging for those hoping to catch the attention of state and federal officials with the power to direct aid. 

The current broadband map, which accounts for address-level data, does a better job than most of showing pockets of broadband unavailability.

In addition to public input, the map relies on reporting from internet service providers, though the Department of Public Service notes, “There were several instances that necessitated the ISPs to refine their data due to significant over or understatements of serviceability,” with field inspectors sent out in some cases to confirm reports from providers. 

But, as The Enterprise previously reported, these methods do not account for things like fluctuations in day-to-day internet service that may afflict a user, such as dropping speeds (or dropped connections) that undercut the usefulness of the existing access. 

The Department of Public Service survey includes a speed test that helps gauge important factors that exist alongside mere accessibility. Previous public hearings held by the department have revealed that “unaffordable, unreliable, or inadequate (i.e., download speeds under 100 Mbps) broadband service is as much an issue as the lack of broadband service,” the report says.

Commenters had also expressed a wish for greater competition between internet service providers so that they’d have a choice between services. In Albany County, nearly 20 percent of households are served by just one provider, not including satellite. 

With foundational data in place, the state is emphasizing consumer input for future map updates. 

A release for the upcoming public hearings says that the Department of Public Service is interested in hearing about “locations where broadband internet service with at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mbps upstream is not available, and what barriers are in place that limit its availability; locations where the offered download speed(s) of internet service are greater than 25 Mbps but less than 100 Mbps downstream; locations where there is only one broadband internet service provider; and locations where broadband internet service is too costly for some consumers or businesses, and the size of the cost barriers.”

The department hopes to hear from not just individuals, the release says, but internet service providers, and organizations of all kinds, from businesses to healthcare providers and agricultural groups. 

More Hilltowns News

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

  • The Rensselaerville Post Office is expected to move to another location within the 12147 ZIP code, according to a United States Postal Service flier, and the public is invited to submit comments on the proposal by mail. 

  • The Enterprise reported in November that the building at 1628 Helderberg Trail was falling, with some material going into the Fox Creek. The creek is considered by the New York State Department of Conservation to be a “Class C waterbody with trout spawning standards.” 

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