Last year, the Development Authority of the North Country signed agreements with Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to conduct surveys about broadband in these regions.
The goal was to determine where service was lacking. This would provide good information for guidance about how resources could best be employed to ensure everyone had access to high-speed internet.
The survey in St. Lawrence County began Feb. 19 and will continue through April 30. Officials said they’ll put as much emphasis on reaching as many residents as they can for the survey.
“St. Lawrence County will augment efforts associated with its ongoing broadband survey to ensure maximum outreach and the most comprehensive results available, particularly dealing with those unable to complete the online survey due to a lack of internet connection. Jason C. Pfotenhauer, deputy director of the St. Lawrence County Planning Office, noted that the county has made ‘a lot of outreach’ with the survey so far, but added that there may be gaps in those able to access or learn about the survey,” according to a story published Saturday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The countywide assessment launched Feb. 19, and garnered roughly 950 responses by March 5. Of that number, 140 residents reported they are without a broadband connection or are unaware of their internet access capabilities. Of 29 commercial respondents, 12 said they are without internet access. The survey will conclude April 30. Mr. Pfotenhauer noted the importance of gaining the most responses available, asserting that the county’s understanding of ‘where the gaps are’ in coverage will aid in future infrastructure projects and outreach.”
Legislator Margaret G. Haggard, D-Potsdam, suggested distributing hard copies of the survey to pass out to individuals who may not have internet service. Legislator Larry Denesha, R-DeKalb, advised using the countywide public transit system to reach people. Legislator David W. Forsythe, R-Lisbon, recommended dispersing surveys through the county Office for the Aging and its home-delivered meals program.
These are all good ideas, and authorities should consider carrying them out. Obtaining as many responses as possible to the survey is important.
Through the New NY Broadband Program established in 2015, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that more than 99 percent of state residents would have access to high-speed internet. The initiative launched with a $500 million investment. A substantial number of New Yorkers have been provided access to high-speed internet over the past five years, according to the website for the state Broadband Program Office.
But the drive to expand internet access has been hampered with some significant problems. One has been the failure of some vendors to complete the work they pledged to carry out. Another is the stifling fee imposed by the state upon fiber optic cable companies to build lines in state-controlled rights of way.
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, the need for people to connect with others online for services has been crucial. Individuals must interact with co-workers virtually. Many students have to obtain classroom lessons online, and tele-health sessions are essential for those who shouldn’t leave their homes.
So determining where service is lacking the most is vital information for those charting the course of broadband expansion. We encourage St. Lawrence County residents to find ways to obtain the survey and provide the answers it seeks.
Visit www.stlawrencecountybroadband.com to take the survey online. Anyone who doesn’t have internet service should call the St. Lawrence County Planning Office at 315-379-2292 for assistance.