State Comptroller calls for changes to broadband availability

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NYS Comptroller DiNapoli (center) speaking on his broadband report.

HUDSON – New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was joined by US Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-19), NYS Senator Daphne Jordan (R – Halfmoon), and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett (D-106) at the Hudson City Hall on Tuesday to discuss DiNapoli’s report on available and affordable broadband service in rural areas.

Some of the key findings of the report indicate that those without access to broadband service tend to have less than a high school education, have an income of less than $20,000, or are age 65 or older.

“Reliable, high-speed internet is a necessity to effectively work, communicate and learn in our society and that was made crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of New Yorkers turned their homes into schools and workplaces,” said DiNapoli.

DiNapoli urged the state to craft a detailed strategy that can leverage federal funding provided under the American Rescue Plan and new funds that may be provided under the infrastructure bill currently before Congress. He said the plan should include the acceleration of universal availability of highest-speed internet connections, including service in rural areas and enhanced access for low-income families.

Congressman Delgado praised DiNapoli’s report and said “The American Rescue Plan was a broadband down payment. Now Congress must pass an infrastructure package to ensure all upstate residents have affordable and accessible internet. I will keep fighting until we get this done.”

Barrett echoed DiNapoli’s call for better access, saying “The findings confirm much of what many of us here in the Hudson Valley already knew: far too many of our neighbors lack access to the broadband needed to function, let alone flourish, in the 21st century. Availability is not the same as access and it is clear that we still have a long way to go.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was critical of the officials gathered at the announcement, claiming they did not push the issue when Cuomo was Governor.  “Why they were so quiet for all these years when Cuomo claimed 100% Internet? We have known too many have been left with limited, unreliable, and no high-speed internet for years. Communities have been taking the lead and what we need is pressure on the providers, state, and federal government to deliver high-speed broadband and cell service and this vital infrastructure.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • In 2019, the share of households without broadband access varied from a high of 19.3% in the North Country to a low of 9.2% on Long Island.
  • In 2019, approximately one in three New York households with income less than $20,000 lacked access to broadband at home. Access rates improve as income improves, leading to a wide disparity between households with income less than $20,000 and those with income greater than $75,000 – 36.2% lacked access compared to 4.5%, respectively, in 2019.
  • Those age 65 and over lacked access at almost three times the rate of New Yorkers ages 18 to 64. Nearly one-quarter of older New Yorkers lacked access in 2019, compared to 8% of those ages 18 to 64. However, access improved more for older New Yorkers between 2015 and 2019 than for those in other age groups.
  • Almost 5% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher lacked access in 2019 compared to 26.7% of New Yorkers with less than a high school education; however, access rates improved by 11.3% for the latter group between 2015 and 2019.

A copy of Comptroller DiNapoli’s report can be found here.