Homer farmer Mike McMahon spent five years pushing for Spectrum to extend broadband to his West Scott Road farm, with no luck. It wasn’t until Verizon FIOS extended into the area that Spectrum followed suit.
“The FIOS line hadn’t even been there a week when Spectrum put in a line,” said McMahon, an owner of E-Z Acres farm.
McMahon is like many people in Cortland County and other rural areas of the state looking to get broadband access. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding broadband access in his 2021-2022 budget by creating a $15 cap on internet services for low-income families and requiring service providers advertise the $15 service.
Broadband access is especially important for McMahon, who uses the internet to access important data related to his dairy business, connect with other businesses and just communicate with others via email.
“It was just painful before,” McMahon said, noting how slowly it took to get the information he needed.
According to the governor’s office, nearly $500 million has been invested in the state to expand broadband across the state.
“I think it’s a great idea if broadband is available,” said Rachel Anderson, who works for Access to Independence, struggles to work at home because of the lack of service at her McGraw home.
She said she’s called both Spectrum and Verizon and both said they had no plans to extend broadband into her area. Anderson who lives just a few miles from the school, said providers think there’s internet access across McGraw just because the school and library have internet access.
“That’s not true,” she said.
Because of the lack of service, Anderson said she’s had to change her work schedule to a Tuesday through Saturday schedule from a Monday through Friday since she’s able to get better access on Saturday.
She returns phone calls when she takes her car out for a drive because her cell service is spotty, as well. Her job pays for a Verizon hotspot, she’s got an AT&T cell she uses, too, and she said she wasted $150 on a Mint Mobile device because the company said it would provide her better internet access. Yet, she said all she can do is send emails and do some searches on the internet, but not much else.
She said the governor should tell companies to expand into the area or at least put a cell tower in McGraw. She said Verizon told her there was one in Cincinnatus.
“I don’t think they understand the geography in this area,” she said noting the hills and trees interfere with the reception.
The state Legislativee Commission on Rural Resources is watching two bills at the state level to help expand broadband, said Darren “Hal” McCabe, the executive director of the commission and mayor of the village of Homer. McCabe said in an email that one of the bills would mandate a complete map of coverage across New York.
However, the commission cannot complete the map without the service providers being compelled to give data on access. McCabe said the commission is allowed to look at the maps, but not make copies of them or share them with anyone else.
“We actually have to sign nondisclosure agreements to even see them,” McCabe said. “I’m all fine and well with that provided the work being done is not with taxpayer money, but it is, and so we need to compel these service providers to give us the data so that we can develop an accurate picture of who does and does not have broadband in NY State.”
Dryden to present broadband options
DRYDEN — Dryden residents will learn about the municipal broadband options the town has during a presentation at the board’s monthly meeting Feb. 18.
“The discussion will be led by our consultant, Ryan Garrison from Hunt Engineering,” said Dan LaMb, the deputy town supervisor.
The town is looking to roll out broadband in six phases, starting with the village because enrollment is the highest there.
“Revenue from each phase helps us lay fiber to build out the next phase,” Lamb said. “Each phase will reach about 1,000 households and take about a year to complete. This is necessary to limit the amount of municipal bonding needed to complete the project.”
Lamb said the town has not finalized all the phases and which areas they will cover, but Lamb said he will advocate to service the areas with the greatest need first.
“There is significant federal funding now available, from the COVID stimulus package and 2021 budget passed last month, so we will be aggressively seeking federal and state assistance for this “shovel ready” project,” Lamb said.