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Group argues lack of high speed Internet hurts business in central New York

State, local and federal elected officials have created a new coalition meant to bridge the digital divide in central New York, as they say a lack of quality high speed Internet has become an economic development issue in Syracuse.

About two years ago, Bob Slivinski of Encompass Technologies  and Syracuse Innovations Group decided they wanted to move their office out of East Syracuse. But when they looked at offices in the city of Syracuse, the lack of fiber optic Internet stopped them cold.

"When we looked at all the facilities downtown, we didn’t have fiber in any of the buildings. And part of my business model is to have very good upload speeds -- not just download, but upload speeds -- and all the providers were inadequate to provide what we need as a business. So we ended up out in Geddes,” said Slivinski.
ARCH, or the Alliance for Reliable Competitive High Sped Internet, wants to tell stories like this, to spread awareness of the issue that plagues the city of Syracuse, as well as other areas across the region, that also don’t have access to high speed fiber optic broadband.

The coalition consists of elected officials, community leaders and businesses and will hold meetings in the coming months to discuss the issue and begin advocating for policies that will improve high speed Internet access for families and businesses across central New York.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the first thing the group will do is explain the problem.

“Meetings, more discussions, more invitations for people to join. And there’s going to be more advocacy. So you’re going to hear a lot more from this coalition bringing out the facts, so we have people who understand the important implications of these kinds of decisions and access to these kinds of tools,” Miner said.

Another member of the new group, Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse), says among other things, the group will  advocate for policies that bring competition to the world of fiber optic high speed access.

“It’s sort of like advocating for other airlines in the airport. You could work on other kinds of incentives, to bring in whether it’s Verizon or some other fiber optic company, we actually have some small local fiber optic companies, to come in and make a deal with those, and sort of figure out what combination of incentives is needed to do that,” Maffei said.

Maffei says high-speed Internet access is critical for growing the local economy and creating jobs.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.