A once vetoed internet access bill has found new life in the newly approved 2021-2022 New York State budget.
The Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act, originally co-sponsored in the state Assembly by Mike Norris, R-Lockport, tasks the state Public Service Commission to study the availability, reliability and cost of high-speed internet and broadband services.
Its enactment last week, after being vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2020, is a case of better late than never, according to Norris.
“Had the governor signed the bill into law in 2020, more New Yorkers would have had access to broadband internet during the critical time of the pandemic,” Norris said in a written statement. “However, that need is certainly not going away. If anything, the pandemic has exposed what so many of us in Western New York have known for so long — the state’s broadband internet access is sorely lacking and too many are unserved.”
The Public Service Commission is tasked with: identifying barriers to the delivery of internet at a census block level, which is the smallest geographical census unit; problem solving for underserved areas with available technology; and identifying providers' noncompliance with franchise agreements where local governments have complained to the commission.
The act also calls for the creation of an internet access map to show the places in New York state where insufficient access is causing a “digital divide.” The map would include information about downloading and uploading speeds and consistency, the number of internet providers, their price and what technologies they have available: dial-up, broadband, wireless, fiber optics, coaxial cable or satellite.
A full report is due one year after the effective date of the act and it is to include the number of residences with or without internet access, a regional survey of internet service prices in comparison to county-level median income, and consumer subscription statistics.
There will also be at least one public hearing in an upstate region and one hearing downstate within a year of the act becoming effective.
“Broadband access is still extremely lacking in too many parts of our state, especially in our rural communities,” Norris said. “This legislation will help identify specific areas of need, removing logistical barriers, and lay the foundation for New Yorkers to gain much needed access to broadband for work and learning in our homes and on our farms.”