ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The coronavirus pandemic has emphasized just how important internet access is as people continue to communicate remotely. Several advocacy groups are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign off on the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act.
“With remote schooling in so many places in the state, school children are dependent on internet access even more than they have been previously,” said Common Cause New York Executive Director Susan Lerner.
Education is just one area that Lerner says has had a bigger reliance on internet access during this pandemic. Another area is elections.
“Everything the Board of Elections puts out sends you to an internet website,” Lerner said. “In order to find out are you registered, in order to request an absentee ballot, in order to find out where your polling place is, so, so much of the information that voters need has transitioned to online. Even when you receive a mailer, often it tells you for more detailed information, go online to the website of the board of elections.”
In July, the state legislature passed the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. According to Senate Sponsor Jen Metzger, “This legislation requires that the PSC examine internet speeds, costs, and other factors that together affect broadband access so that we can fully close the digital divide in New York State…”
While the state invested $500 million in broadband in 2015, a map from the Citizens Budget Commission shows many rural areas in Upstate New York still did not have 100 megabits per service availability as of June 2019.
The Governor is reviewing the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act legislation. Representative Antonio Delgado has also introduced a legislative package in Congress aimed to “close the digital divide.”