BUFFALO, N.Y. — After a 9-month study of broadband access in New York State, the Department of Public Service (also referred to as the PSC) has released a new map aimed to provide granular data and accuracy.
"We have determined that 97.4% of address locations in the state are served," said Valery Galasso, chief of public policy for the telecommunications division within the DPS. ".1% of address locations are underserved and 2.5% of address locations in the state unserved."
This study, mandated by the legislature in the 2021-2022 budget, defines service in a greater capacity than the FCC.
- Served is any service greater than 100Mbps.
- Underserved is service between 25Mbps-100Mbps
- Unserved is service between 0Mbps-25Mbps
ECC Technologies conducted the study on behalf of the PSC. According to the statement of work provided by ECC to the PSC, part of the dataset used for the study is Form 477 data.
Form 477 data is submitted to the FCC by service providers, and is widely considered flawed--so much so the FCC is changing the rules for Form 477 submissions.
Still, PSC staff insist that the study had several layers of checks and balances to ensure the data was accurate.
"We also utilize data from field inspections driving over 80,000 miles in the most remote places throughout the state to fact-check the above-referenced ISP submitted data," Galasso said.
For the eight counties in Western New York, the study suggests the percentage of served addresses is high, except in Cattaraugus and Wyoming Counties.
- Allegany - 94.49%
- Cattaraugus - 74.5%
- Chautauqua - 94.45%
- Erie - 98.9%
- Genesee - 94.65
- Niagara - 98.7%
- Orleans - 94.6%
- Wyoming - 86.87%
But if you take a closer look at the data, and know where to look, the gaps in the data set are quite apparent.
John Oakes spotted this almost immediately.
"When I checked it out, it did say that my in-laws were covered," Oakes said. "When I checked Spectrum, they said no, they don't run out to the address'".
2 On Your Side highlighted Oakes' struggle to get high-speed internet at his home in Oakfield back in 2020.
He still doesn't have a connection at his home that would place him in the served category. Since our initial report, however, he has upgraded from satellite service to LTE at home, which gives him about 50Mbps on a good day.
Oakes says he just wants to get his in-laws, who live around the corner, connected.
"It would be better for them to stay connected with their friends and family," Oakes said. "If they don't have that, it's a lot harder on them."
The unveiling of the 29-page report took about an hour at the Department of Public Service meeting on June 16.
Part of the report was also presenting commissioners with solutions to fix the gaps in digital disparity and find solutions to get the remaining 2.6% of the state properly connected.
PSC staff were grilled by Commissioners about digital equity and regulatory issues, particularly by Commissioner Tracey Edwards.
"Why is it that we have the people with the lowest income having the highest prices and the lowest speeds?" Edwards asked the staff.
Edwards was pressing the PSC staff about the data that revealed that 42% of addresses in the state only had one choice for a wired or wireless provider. Many urban communities across the state have a monopoly provider.
"Very thoughtful questions," one staffer replied. "We are considering what to do about those things, I think we can include that in the next study."
The assessment will be annual, as mandated by the legislature.
Edwards would not let the PSC staff off the hook, however.
"We don't have an action in the recommendations to address that," Edwards said. "So what's the best way for us to move forward to ensure that because I don't want to wait another year?"
PSC staff conceded that they could explore the issue Edwards brought up sooner than next year's study.
2 On Your Side reached out to ECC Technologies to try and learn more about the data gathering for the study. Additionally, requests were made to talk with officials from the Department of Public Service.
Both of our requests were denied.
The full report can be read here.
The new map can be found here, and if you see any conflicting information you can send us a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org