Life without broadband

Sep 23, 2010

If you live in a rural community in upstate New York, chances are you’ve experienced life without high-speed internet – even though many in urban areas view broadband as a given.

According to the New York State Office for Technology, some companies avoid opening up shop in communities without access to broadband. But residents aren’t just missing out on potential jobs and services when they’re not wired – they’re also missing out on educational opportunities that require a high speed connection.

The U.S. lags behind many developed countries in high-speed internet. And New York currently ranks 14th among the states in broadband accessibility. Angela Liotta, a spokeswoman for New York State Office for Technology says 95 percent of New Yorkers have access to high-speed internet. But many of them cannot afford it. She says the other 5 percent are still using dial-up.

“Providing last-mile coverage to many rural areas is costly and the return on investment is low for many private companies who are looking to make a profit. This is where government can step in and provide subsidies for private industry to build out in rural areas,” Liotta said.

President Obama’s administration set aside billions of dollars in the stimulus package to promote high-speed internet across the country. Some of that money continues to trickle down to the states. So far, New York has received $140 million to fuel broadband expansion. The money went to both public and private initiatives.

The White House is still trying to wrap up the second round of broadband stimulus funds where New York was recently awarded more than $20 million. New York is slated to get more federal funding in the future for broadband. Liotta says the money will help to upgrade broadband services, videoconferencing and other technology tools for residents across the state.