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Politics and Government

State commission gets earful about lack of internet service options in central NY

Ellen Abbott
Union members gather in front of Syracuse City Hall before a hearing on internet service.

A packed house at Syracuse City Hall last night told the New York State Public Service Commission that Syracuse and central New York needs more choice, better service and lower prices when for their cable and internet service. More than 100 people crammed into the Syracuse hearing, one over several being held across the state this summer.

Helen Dewey, runs a business strategy company on Syracuse’s near west side. But she told commissioners it’s a technical struggle.

“My internet service is very erratic. The speed isn’t there. I can’t get the speed in the building, so it’s not a matter of paying for a higher package. I just can’t get reliable service,” said Dewey.

Sometimes she has to go to her parents’ house, because they have access to Verizon FIOS, a high-speed fiber optic internet service. And she’s lost business because of problems getting video conference going.

"I’m relying on getting large data files, doing video conferencing, both domestically and internationally.  Doing it out of a home-based network, it should work, but unfortunately the infrastructure isn’t there,” said Dewey.

The lack of Verizon FIOS as an option for many central New Yorkers, especially in the inner city, is something that Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson wanted commissioners to hear.

Credit Bret Jaspers / WSKG News file photo
WSKG News file photo

“Verizon, for me, is doing discriminatory practices. They won’t go in inner cities. I have a problem with that. They’ll go on the outsides of our cities. But they will not come in inner cities throughout the country. That’s problematic,” said Hudson.

Communications workers are also interested in getting Verizon FIOS to expand more areas of central New York, including the city of Syracuse.

“It will provide people in the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County with a choice to break the cable monopoly. Because at the end of the day when consumers have a choice, they win,” said Chris Ryan, of the Communications Workers of America local. Ryan says jobs laying fiber are good jobs that are needed in central New York. 

PSC spokesman James Denn says the PSC wants to hear it all.

"What we’re trying to do is hear from the people, hear from the industry, active parties, on how to make it better,” said Denn.

He says there’s no timetable for change, with the PSC in the second phase of a four-phase process. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has been pushing for changes in the telecommunications field for months, and she says if the PSC doesn’t do it, she and others will keep pushing.

“Then the state leadership, the state delegation, Assembly, the senate, the governor -- we’re going to call on them to do something. We can no longer have an economy that doesn’t have access to broadband and internet service," said Miner.