CHENANGO COUNTY — On September 27, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the state would be launching a survey to map high-speed broadband accessibility, reliability, and cost across the state as part of the NYS Broadband Program.
The New York State Public Service Commission is moving into the hard launch phase, and are asking each county in New York State for help. Partnered with ECC Technologies, a technology and communications consulting company based in New York State, the Commission will analyze the data gathered from the survey to determine broadband needs in each county.
"It’s a mapping survey where people can take the speed test, and what it does is it populates a map that kind of shows where underserved areas are, what their speeds are," said Chenango County Director of Planning Shane Butler. "Counties and, specifically, apartments like mine, can then apply for funding to help make those areas serviced better by better internet connections."
The results of the survey will determine what areas will receive funding to improve access to high-speed, reliable broadband. Butler stressed the importance of Chenango County residents participating in the survey, as it gives the commission a better understanding of the area's needs.
"So really the important part for us, and why we’re pushing this so hard, is because the better data that we have means the better informed we are about which locations in the county don’t have adequate broadband," he explained.
The survey can be found at chenangobroadband.com and empirestatebroadband.com. Those that do not currently have internet access or would prefer to fill out a paper survey can call 1-855-NYBBMAP (1-855-692-2627).
The deadline to complete the survey is March 18. After that point, data will be compiled and analyzed by the Commission, and a public report of their findings and recommendations is expected to be published by May 2022, according to a press release issued by the Governor's office in September 2021.
According to Butler, only 157 surveys have been completed in Chenango County. Additionally, he said most of those surveys were in the Northeastern part of the county, which leaves the other areas without adequate representation. This could lead to some areas not receiving the assistance they need, or efforts to help being duplicated in other areas.
"We could think we know all we want, but with this data we can actually pinpoint it so we’re not duplicating efforts ... Because it’s centered around where the survey was taken, it also helps us more specifically pinpoint those problem areas," said Butler. "So rather than saying, oh yeah, Chenango County as a whole needs broadband really badly, but if there's areas in the county that are really well served that don't need it, we don’t want to duplicate those efforts. So it really just helps us focus on certain areas."
The survey consists of a speed test and questionnaire, and takes approximately five to ten minutes to complete. The questionnaire and speed test can be taken in both residential homes and businesses, on a computer. It is recommended to only fill out the questionnaire if using a mobile phone. Questions include the address where the survey is being taken, information about internet provider, costs, what the internet is used for, and more.
"For my office, this will help us because we’ll be able to access the data once it’s released and then we can use that data to apply for funds, and it gives us better information," Butler explained. "So we have actual survey data proof that this is needed in our area."
More information on the NYS Broadband Program and the county survey can be found at empirestatebroadbandtoolkit.com.