Broadband poll extends to paper option after Senate pressure | New York State

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A state survey to assess the shortcomings of high-speed internet access in New York City was expanded 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.

“High speed internet is essential for accessing the basic services and information we use in our daily lives,” Civil Service Department CEO Rory M. Christian said in a statement on Wednesday. “With this groundbreaking study, we will begin the process to ensure that every part of the state – regardless of geographic and economic factors – can access high speed broadband.”

New Yorkers are encouraged to complete the survey by February 28, 2022. The Civil Service Department intends to use the findings of its data report to be released by May, officials said. ministry officials.

“In addition, we are using this exercise for the first time as a way to assess whether and how we can use this survey function in perpetuity as part of the annual report / update of the broadband assessment program.” , added representatives of the department.

The broadband survey, funded by $ 1 million on commission from 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 DPS is encouraged by the number of residents who have already responded to this important survey, to ensure the accuracy of our findings, the agency is urging more New Yorkers to participate in the consumer survey,” according to a press release from the department on Wednesday.

The Civil Service Department updated empirestatebroadband.com with the hotline number and details on how to receive a hard copy of the investigation on December 10, 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 Senator George Borello, R-Sunset Bay; Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon; and Dan Stec, R-Queensbury; and senators from New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes and western New York State.

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.

The data from the survey will be used to publish a report in the second quarter of 2022, including a detailed map of the state’s broadband access and conduct an in-depth study on the availability, reliability, cost and number and types of high speed internet in New York. Internet service providers available in each area, including dial-up, broadband, wireless, fiber, coax, or satellite.

The report will identify instances where local governments notified the department of non-compliance with franchise agreements or actions of the commission or department that had a direct impact on internet access, identify areas with insufficient access has negative social or economic impacts in the community and will identify solutions and recommendations for underserved areas, according to the department on Wednesday.

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. Officials said on Wednesday that dates and locations would be announced in the coming weeks.

“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 $ 4.5 million has been budgeted for the entire mapping initiative, which includes costs related to public awareness, according to the Civil Service Ministry.

“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 working with the Association of Counties) to get the word out about this survey, “Civil Service Department officials said.” We also engaged the Legislature earlier this year and provided them with a flyer to inform their districts. ”

The state’s broadband rating program will be updated annually. The survey will result in the publication of the first interactive detailed broadband map of New York in the second quarter of 2022 with the accompanying report.

The department encourages people without broadband access in 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 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.

Senator Hinchey is happy that his 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.

Residents of the 46th Senate District can call the Hinchey office at 845-331-3810 for assistance.

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

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