By Jennifer Weber
Everyone reading this article knows all too well about the lack of reliable, affordable access to high-speed internet in our region of Southeast Erie County.
Any of these statements sound familiar? Hit close to home?
• “The only internet access available in our area is through a satellite provider, and the costs for that service are outrageous after adding in data overages per month.”
• “We have one option outside of our phone, Time-Warner Cable, and even that isn’t considered fast service. We need competition.”
• “I love living here, but getting used to spotty coverage and signal strength has been quite a challenge!”
• “I can barely do anything, we can’t stream video or radio and not just because of speed of service but also the cost, the amount of data it takes up on our plan is crazy.”
• “I make my kids do their homework while we are still at work (in the Village) because we just don’t have the access at home.”
Enter the Erie County Broadband Internet Study.
A Public Meeting was held on Dec. 5, 2016 at 6 p.m. discussing the Erie County Broadband Internet Study at the Erie County Fire Training Academy Auditorium, located at 3359 Broadway, Cheektowaga.
In order to assist the New York State Broadband for All Initiative, which includes a half-billion dollar investment from Albany to make broadband accessible to every home and business in the state, residents of Erie County are asked to go to Eriecounty.crowdfiber.com to complete a short survey tracking your current internet options and level of service along with a speed test which will create a database to map survey results.
“Reliable high-speed broadband is a necessity no matter where you live or what you do, but coverage, service and speed vary depending on where in the county you are. This should not be the case,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “In order to decide how to improve broadband options to our underserved residents, we need more precise data from our constituents.”
ECC Technologies, Inc., a technology and communications consulting firm out of Rochester area is conducting the feasibility study.
As resident Holly Jean Heidelberger commented, “I would love to complete it (the survey) right now, but the internet is so bad where I live that I will have to wait until tomorrow when I am in town.”
And this is exactly why residents in our area need to make our voices heard. Without sharing our thoughts and experiences, we are just a set of data numbers pulled by the FCC and various other statistical studies. The information pulled when I added in my residential address showed that DSL was available in my area, but it’s not. And I live minutes outside of the Village of Springville and minutes away from the 219, hardly considered the most rural area of our region. (Trust me, I’d give anything to have even slow DSL as an option!)
“There are still many homes and businesses within our County relying on slow Internet speeds that simply can’t meet 21st century technological requirements,” added Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke. “The FCC recently changed the definition of broadband speeds to 25 Mbps download by 3 Mbps upload, so even those residents who have DSL no longer qualify as having high speed Internet… A lot of people are very unhappy with the speeds they have and the options available to upgrade their service at a reasonable cost.”
Erie County will use the information from this survey to research what can be done to improve access in our region, including developing potential infrastructure, which may be available but currently underutilized or unused, and working with existing providers of broadband service (public or private) to plan expansion of services including locations and timeframes.
The online survey is divided into five regions of Erie County. Representation from our area, the Southeast Zone, currently is at 76 percent of goal with other zones at 9 percent, 11 percent, 21 percent and 14 percent of goal.
Please visit Eriecounty.crowdfiber.com to complete the survey and make your voice heard.