U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi. D-Utica, says a survey on broadband access that garnered answers from across New York’s 22nd Congressional District shows the district has the slowest internet speeds in the state.
The survey received responses from 1,187 households, including submissions through Brindisi’s website or the mail. Of the survey respondents, 120 reported having no access to at-home internet, while only 60% of respondents with internet access reported having broadband.
Brindisi, who announced the survey findings Monday during a virtual press conference, said rural areas have been left behind by internet service providers.
“Even when internet companies take federal dollars to provide service, this report shows that they may be cutting corners and delivering speeds far slower than required by the federal government,” he said.
Brindisi was joined Monday by Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, who said current maps don’t accurately reflect regions where broadband access is available.
For years, the FCC has reported any Census block with one broadband customer has broadband access throughout, Rosenworcel said. In some areas like Upstate New York, a Census block can be hundreds of square miles.
“If we make an assumption that a single subscriber in that Census block has service, therefore everyone does, we’re radically overstating the presence of broadband and that’s a problem,” Rosenworcel said.
With the importance of high-speed internet access in the 21st century, especially during a pandemic which has required people to work or attend class from home, the inaccuracy of the FCC method is a problem, Rosenworcel said.
“‘What that means is when we have programs in New York state or in Washington, we don’t always send dollars to the right places to help expand infrastructure,” she said.
Congress passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump in March. The intent of Broadband DATA Act is to improve the accuracy of broadband service maps, with the option to challenge the information supplied by internet service providers.
By conducting a survey, New York’s 22nd Congressional District is ahead of the curve of the changes from the Broadband DATA Act, Rosenworcel said.
More than half of survey respondents — 56.2% — with internet access listed Spectrum as their internet service provider, while Frontier and Verizon trailed with 13.5% and 13.2%. The majority of users rated their overall experience with their provider as being “poor” or “terrible.”
The survey also found 83% of the respondents were unhappy with the internet speeds they’re getting. Of the respondents, 67% reported having a cable or internet increase in the past year without an improvement to service.
With the survey results, Brindisi supplied four recommendations to state and federal lawmakers.
The recommendations include the FCC updating its outdated maps to better address the needs of rural areas and ensuring investments in infrastructure go to unserved or underserved areas. Brindisi also recommended providing stronger oversight of federal funds being sent to internet providers to ensure they meet speed requirements.
The congressman also said more free market competition from local companies, municipalities and other providers to cable giants like Spectrum will help combat rising prices, poor customer service and other problems.
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