October 24, 2021

Banking on broadband

Opportunities to arise with new internet service

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Mark Cobb, an employee at the Cincinnatus Home Center, uses the company’s broadband to work online Wednesday. Without the broadband service, operations at the store would be slower.

Tim Mott is frustrated. He built a home in Taylor and when he moved in was told he could get broadband.

He’s still using internet through AT&T. It’s high speed up to 20 gigabites. Once those are used up service slows down.

“When the counter resets each month we hit 20 gigs within the first three days,” he said.

What really makes things challenging is that Mott works at least one day a week from home. He also relies on his internet service for entertainment through Netflix.

He is holding out hope for a future with access to high-speed broadband.

Getting broadband access to everyone — including those in rural areas — has been an effort of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In 2011, more than 700,000 New Yorkers lacked access to broadband, and another 6 million people faced significant obstacles to internet connectivity.

Can you get broadband?

Anyone wanting to know if they have access to broadband can look up their address on the state’s website at nysbroadband.ny.gov/resources/ residential-broadband.

That includes a huge swath of eastern and southern Cortland County.

Officials see the lack of broadband hindering quality of life. People can’t work from homes; businesses could be stunted. It could have long-term effect on a community’s development and growth.

A solution: Expand high-speed internet as identified by the Regional Councils, which in return could stimulate local business growth, according to the governor’s office.

In 2015, Cuomo launched the three-phase New NY Broadband Program to provide 99.9 percent of New Yorkers with high-speed internet access by the end of 2018. The goal of the program is to provide statewide access download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, and 25 megabits per second in most rural and remote areas.

To stream Netflix in high-definition, the company requires 0.5 megabits per second in connection speed. Frontier suggests that internet speeds of 1 megabits per second are important for online gaming.

In the first phase of the project in 2016, the broadband was made available to 2.2 million New Yorkers, about 97 percent of the state. During the second phase, in 2017, that was increased to 98 percent.

In 2015, the state Broadband Program Office found:

• 1 million residents and 4,000 businesses lacked access to broadband, defined in the state as 6 megabits per second a download and 1.5 megabits per second an upload.

• 5 1/2 million residents and 55,000 businesses lacked access to broadband speeds of 25 Mbps/10 Mbps.

• 7 million residents and 113,000 businesses lacked access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps/10 Mbps.

• 70% of upstate New Yorkers couldn’t access broadband at 100 Mbps, including 32 counties with no access at all to broadband at that speed.

Since campaigning for office in the 22nd Congressional District, Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) has made a push for expanding broadband access.

“Broadband access is a necessity in today’s economy,” he wrote in an email. “Most job listings are only posted online and require applicants to submit their resume through a website. School children need high-speed internet access to do their homework. Most businesses cannot set up shop in a community unless they can be connected to the online economy.”

Broadband is coming

In 2015, the state Broadband Program Office published a map of broadband coverage. In Cortland County, rural areas including the eastern and southern portions of the county.

In January, a growing number of Verizon trucks spread across Cortland County.

Verizon was awarded more than $85 million from the state’s Broadband Program Office’s New NY Broadband Service Expansion project in early 2018 as a part of Phase 3 of the state’s Broadband Program Office’s New NY Broadband Service Expansion project, according to the state Public Service Commission.

“With the funding, Verizon is expanding its 100 Mbps broadband service to more than 18,000 locations upstate, including portions of Cortland County,” the commission wrote in an email.

In Cortland County, 296 locations are planned to be upgraded with broadband, from Freetown to Scott and Virgil and Truxton. The total cost for the projects is more than $3.5 million.

The expansion will offer broadband, or internet, through Verizon as opposed to Spectrum, which offers internet, cable and phone service.

However, according to a Spectrum availability map, the company provides access to the areas being equipped with the Verizon broadband.

The map however does not show coverage for parts of Solon, Freetown and Truxton.

Verizon’s deadline for completion of the Broadband Program Office projects is 2020, although many communities will be complete before that, the commission reports.

“Too many towns in our area have no broadband service at all, and those which do are often stuck with bad connections and slow speeds,” Brindisi said. “Cable company monopolies don’t see the need to invest in these areas, but our rural communities need broadband access in order to participate in the modern economy.”

No downsides

There is no downside to broadband, said Kristin Russell, store manager at Cincinnatus Home Center.

After looking into the business’ internet service, Russell said it gets broadband through Frontier. It’s a great asset when helping customers. “You don’t want them to wait any longer,” she said.

The store relies heavily on its service from credit card machines to ordering items online. Russell said in today’s society, few people come in planning to use cash.

Being both a hardware store and grocery, each with its own respective side of the building, a variety of items for sale are ordered online.

“It’d be frustratingly slow if we didn’t have broadband or high-speed internet,” Russell said.

Because of broadband service, the store was able to add a new service — kitchen design. Russell said it could have still been done without the broadband, but “it would have made it difficult.”

Mark Cobb, who works at the store — mainly in ordering Stihl and Milwaukee tools — does most of his work with the internet.

If he didn’t have broadband, or the internet, to place equipment orders things wouldn’t be good, it’d be bad or worse. “Terrible,” he said.

‘A better place to live’

Dan Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department, isn’t sure if broadband will spur economic development. However, it can lead to other benefits.

“More people are able to work from homes,” he said.

It’s one thing Mott, who works in the cyber security field, is looking forward to.

Once his high-speed data is used, service can slow up at any given time.

Dineen said the state promised broadband, at speeds of 100 mbps. “It’s slowly being issued out,” he said.

The Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service operate several programs that provide grants and loans to expand broadband access to homes, hospitals and schools, beyond what the state is already doing, Brindisi said.

“It’s important that these programs target rural communities which are lacking high-speed broadband,” he wrote. “The Save the Internet Act, which passed the House on April 10, included an amendment of mine to help with this by requiring the Government Accountability Office to produce a report about the ways in which the government can promote broadband internet access in rural areas.”

Dineen has hopes. Those include broadband for everyone so they can work from home or even students can have other opportunities with homework.

“It’ll help us make a better place to live,” he said.