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Buffalo still struggling with broadband choices and quality

"I'm disappointed," Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen said regarding the lack of significant broadband deployment since 2019.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Back in 2019 2 On Your Side started looking into internet access in Buffalo and Western New York. 

Our first big story led to changes by the Buffalo Common Council. The city changed the language in its franchise agreement to allow companies to deploy fiber cables in portions, versus the entire city. 

So, two years later, has any progress been made? 

"I'm still disappointed in how long it is taking, for broadband, for other carriers to be able to come into our city provide what is now almost as important as the telephone line was," Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen said. "We don't know if children will have to go back or remote, and just the importance of being connected in society today is a necessity, it is not a luxury anymore."

Since the change to the city franchise agreement, only one carrier has begun deploying fiber and providing service, Greenlight Networks. Their progress has been slowed by the pandemic and red tape with utility companies, according to a source with direct knowledge inside city hall.  

In a statement a Greenlight spokesperson says:

"Greenlight Networks is available in Buffalo's Upper and Lower West Side. Elmwood and Forest neighborhoods will have access to Greenlight's fiber network once significant utility construction work is completed."

The company wouldn't disclose how many Buffalo subscribers they currently have.

"We were hoping when Greenlight came along that there would be this surge of competition and rates would come down, you know, it becomes a choice sometimes have an internet connection and groceries for a lot of families."

There is some movement in other areas, however. In May, the City of Buffalo utilized American Rescue Plan funds to initiate a broadband survey for city residents. Once the comment period concluded, 2 On Your Side sent a FOIL request to obtain those comments. 

Over 700 residents submitted the survey, and half provided comments such as:

"Currently pay for a service that is intermittent at best."

"The reliability of the internet has gone down significantly since COVID hit."

"Adequate service is not available at this address. The Monopoly power that limits customer choice should not be allowed."

"Please please please bring municipal broadband to the city.'

Council President Pridgen wasn't surprised by the universal tone of the comments submitted. 

"We now have more people than ever working from home, we now have more students possibly needing to go back on remote, and this is just the way people communicate now," Pridgen said. "I'm not surprised by some of the comments, and how universal they are"

The city is expected to release a final report from that study sometime in January.