Surveys created to find and help remaining upstate broadband dark spots
Nonprofits and government organizations are teaming up to help expand broadband internet to the remaining corners of central New York and the Mohawk Valley. David Bottar, executive director of the Central New York Regional Panning Board, said despite years of efforts from private companies and the state government to bring internet to the rural parts of upstate, many pockets remain unserved and patience thinned during the pandemic.
"When so many people had to work and learn and play at home, the lack of broadband internet service clearly became a real problem for those families," Bottar said.
To find those families, the Planning Board is asking residents in Oswego, Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, and Madison counties to fill out an online survey. Bottar said now is the time to gather this data.
"We think there’s an opportunity right now given the emphasis on infrastructure at the federal level," Bottar said. "We think there is going to be additional public funding coming down the pike and we think the study the plan we are working on right now will position each of our member counties to compete."
Mari Kate Mycek is leading a similar effort in the Mohawk Valley. It's a partnership that includes Oneida and Herkimer counities, the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District, and the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. Mycek said she's optimistic about their chances to finally reach those homes that have been left behind.
"Now, people and organizations across the economic development and community development sphere are seeing that this is a real issue that affects economic development and are willing to engage in ways that they weren’t in the past," Mycek said. "Because so many people are finally realizing that access to affordable and reliable internet is such a necessary part of our life now in so many different ways that there have been a huge amount of new grants."
The central New York broadband survey ends in July and the Mohawk Valley survey ends in August.