Broadband coverage survey extended to include paper option | Top story

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A state survey to assess the shortcomings of high-speed internet access in New York City was extended to a non-digital option this month for people without high-speed internet access – the goal of the investigation in the first place – having recently urged over two-thirds of the state Senate.

New Yorkers have until February 28 to respond to the State Civil Service Commission’s Broadband Assessment Program survey to report their accessibility to broadband internet, including the cost of available utilities, and upload and download speeds, to help state officials identify connectivity deserts – particularly in rural communities in the north of the state.

“We encourage New Yorkers to complete it by February 28, 2022, so that we can include these findings in our spring report,” Civil Service Department officials said Thursday. “In addition, we are using this exercise for the first time as a way to assess whether and how we can use this perpetual survey function as part of the annual report / update of the broadband assessment program. “

The broadband survey, funded by $ 1 million commission in the 2021-2022 state budget, can be completed online at empirestatebroadband.com. Residents of the state without a sufficient Internet connection can call the department’s free hotline at 1-855-NYBBMAP (1-855-692-2627) to request that a paper version of the survey be sent to their home.

The department encourages people without broadband access at their home or business to complete the survey on a computer at a local library, or by visiting the site on their mobile phone and clicking the “Survey only” button on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

The Ministry of the Civil Service updated empirestatebroadband.com with the hotline number and details on how to receive a hard copy of the Dec. 10 investigation, department officials said. The investigative offers were broadened targeting New Yorkers without the internet more than two weeks after 43 state senators from the two main political parties sent a letter to the secretary of the state Civil Service Commission, Michelle Phillips, Nov. 22, urging a non-digital investigation option, accessible by phone. and hard copies to hard copies, to get the most accurate picture of the state’s broadband connectivity.

“Inaccurate reports on near full coverage have intentionally blocked critical developments, and broken promises of future services have left communities with no hope for a solution,” the senators wrote. “… We demand that the PSC immediately make its latest assessment more widely available to those without internet access to ensure that we are getting accurate data and; therefore, do not continue to advance on the basis of inflated and inaccurate coverage percentages. We need accurate and complete information to finally be able to make broadband accessible to all New Yorkers.

The 43 statewide senators, led by Senator Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, said nearly a million New Yorkers still lack high-speed internet connections or affordable broadband services, citing a report from September 2021 from the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. .

Senators from districts across the state signed the letter, including Senators George Borello, Daphne Jordan and Dan Stec, as well as Senators from New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes and western New York.

They called on the commission to establish a phone number and a printable survey so as not to alienate New Yorkers without broadband and continue to leave affected communities behind. Senators also called on the commission to hold listening sessions in communities across the state known to have digital gaps.

“Providing these forums where PSC staff can listen to residents’ issues and respond to the survey in person will lead to better information gathering and better overall strategic outcomes,” the letter said.

The commission submitted a response to central Senate staff, which was shared with Hinchey’s office, about the new hotline and the possibility of sending the survey to residents.

Data from the survey will be used to publish a report in the spring of 2022, including a detailed map of the state’s broadband access and to conduct a comprehensive study on the availability, reliability and cost of broadband internet. At New York.

The Civil Service Commission will hold two public hearings to solicit comments from the public and other stakeholders, including internet service providers, telecommunications companies, labor organizations, public safety organizations, healthcare , education, agriculture and other businesses or organizations after the end of the survey collection. in February.

The dates and locations of the hearings have not been announced.

“We are working to solidify the dates for public hearings in the near future,” according to the Civil Service Department. “Details to be published in the near future.”

A total of up to $ 4.5 million has been budgeted for the entire mapping initiative, which includes costs related to public awareness, according to officials from the Civil Service Department.

“In addition to getting the word out on our social media and word of mouth in general (we talk about it whenever we get the chance), we’ve worked with counties across the state (both individually and in collaboration with the Association of Counties) to get the word out about this poll, “Civil Service Department officials said Thursday.” We also engaged the Legislature earlier this year and provided them with a flyer. to inform their districts. ”

The department continues to have active and regular conversations with county chiefs and State County Association officials to publicize the investigation. “We also actively use our various social media pages which reach thousands of New Yorkers,” according to department officials.

Hinchey is delighted that her letter, supported by 42 Senate colleagues urging the PSC to create an offline process to complete the broadband investigation, has had an impact on the change.

“I’m happy to share that due to our advocacy, a hotline has now been established (1-855-692-2627) so that New Yorkers can request a hard copy of the broadband investigation. be sent to their home, ”Hinchey said. in a statement Thursday. “We still have more to do to make sure this survey is fully accessible to New Yorkers without a reliable internet, but this hotline is a good start.”

New Yorkers who need help completing the survey can call their state representative for help over the phone.

Earlier this year, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill spending $ 3 million on more detailed maps after lawmakers passed a measure to study the state’s connectivity, challenging a statistic national report that 98% of the state has access to high-speed Internet service. The governor has promised to include funding for new cards in the 2021-2022 spending plan.

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